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Workers rally at City Hall to protest employers who cheat them

November 18, 2010 |  1:39 pm

Low-income workers and their advocates rallied in front of Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday in a bid to focus attention on “wage theft” — when employees get cheated out of legally earned wages.

It’s a pervasive problem, especially among immigrant workers in places like Los Angeles, as this 2009 study by researchers at UCLA and elsewhere shows.

Experts estimate that low-wage workers such as day laborers, janitors and taxi drivers often lose as much as 15% of their legally entitled income because unscrupulous employers short-change them on salaries. Typical violations include paying less than the minimum wage, refusing to pay legally mandated overtime and forcing people to work off the clock.

“It’s a crime to cheat someone out of their wages,” said City Councilman Richard Alarcon, who is sponsoring a proposed city ordinance that would criminalize wage theft.

Activists declared Thursday a “national day of action” to highlight the problem and help jump-start similar laws across the country targeting wage theft.

“It’s a good idea to do something about employers who don’t pay us what we earn,” said Bartolome Fernandez, 29, a carwash worker in Los Angeles who was among those attending the City Hall rally. “Maybe this will make the bosses treat us fairly.”

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-- Patrick J. McDonnell at Los Angeles City Hall

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