Delayed Vote on Wage Theft Prevention Act

Earlier this week, workers and allies rallied on the steps of the Wilson Building to demand that the DC Council pass the Wage Theft Prevention Act with no amendments that would weaken the bill’s protections. The bill was scheduled for its first reading and vote.

Though the bill was ultimately removed from the agenda, workers and advocates will continue to fight to ensure that the Wage Theft Prevention Act passes with no amendments that would water down the bill. The bill’s first reading is now anticipated for June 3.

Workers and allies enact street theater, where a Councilmember rips up amendments proposed by the Chamber of Commerce.

Before heading into the Wilson building, workers and allies held a rally on the steps. The victims of wage theft enacted a short, original play about the effects of stolen wages on families and DC residents.

“No nos pagaron como es correcto (They did not pay us correctly),” said Jonny Castillo, a worker activist who continues to fight to recover his unpaid wages. “Hemos estado luchando, haciendo una lucha para poder lograr cobrar el resto que nos tiene robado (We have been struggling, fighting to be able to recover the rest of what they stole from us).”

“DC workers can’t wait any longer for this bill,” said Hannah Kane, organizer with the Employment Justice Center. “Workers suffer very real, painful, and long lasting consequences when they are not paid. We need stronger protections now.”

“I want to assure all in support of this bill that the Council remains strong in its resolve to pass this bill,” said Councilmember Vincent Orange (At-Large) after withdrawing the bill from the agenda. “We remain one and we plan to move forward.”

Councilmember Orange also had a word of warning for the Chamber of Commerce. “You are not participating in this process,” he stated from the dais. “The Chamber has sat upon the sidelines, and after we go through this process, mark up the bill, all this work has taken place, they then run around trying to sabotage the process.”

“Everybody has an opportunity to come and testify and participate in the process of creating laws,” he added.  “I would hope that this Council has gotten to a point that we’re through with this. And that this will be the last exception to the rule that, that we are going to follow the process as described and if you don’t participate in that process, that’s on you. But the Council and executive branch is going to move forward.”

The first vote on the bill is anticipated to take place on June 3.  The Wage Theft Prevention Act will strengthen and expand safeguards against wage theft in the District. The bill would combat wage theft by:

  • Establishing formal procedures to enable victims of wage theft to recover unpaid wages and damages;
  • Increasing the penalties for those responsible for committing wage theft;
  • Providing greater protection for workers who stand up for their rights;
  • And making it easier for wage theft victims to get legal representation.

Take action!  Email your DC Councilmembers to ensure that they support the Wage Theft Prevention Act with no amendments that would weaken its ability to help District workers fight back against wage theft.

Check out the report, Stolen Wages in the Nation’s Capital, for more information on the state of wage theft in DC and about the bill.

Media coverage of the rally: