From March 24 to April 2, 2015, hundreds of workers, tenants, small business owners, religious leaders and students attended hearings of the LA City Council Economic Development Committee to emphasize that wage and hour enforcement is a critical part of any effort to raise the minimum wage.
Elia Reyes knows this reality all too well. She has been working in the garment industry for over 20 years, where the practice of wage theft is rampant. Her employers pay her by the piece rate, a practice common in the garment industry that often amounts to less than the minimum wage of $9 per hour. Though Reyes works from six o’clock in the morning to six o’clock in the evening, she averages $80 a week–less than the minimum wage for a single day. To make ends meet, she has to use hours outside of work to sell simple foods on the street–juices, tamales, champurrado, and atole.
“I’ve told my bosses that it’s not right and that I plan to make a wage claim, but they laugh at me. They don’t think that the Labor Commissioner will do anything,” says Reyes. “A law on wage theft would give people the strength to fight back.”