The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week approved the creation of a special Wage Enforcement Bureau primarily for the working poor who can now file claims for unpaid wages while holding employers accountable for breaking the law.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich dissented in the 4-1 vote, which is the result of a motion forwarded by the county chief operating officer to establish a system of enforcement for the new minimum wage in unincorporated portions of the county. The new bureau will emanate from the Department of Consumer Affairs which will also provide seed funding and conduct outreach to stakeholders. Antonovich said he’d rather see the $408,000 needed to set up the new office spent on social service programs.
“They work for 10 to 12 hours,” said Yanin Senachai of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, one of several advocacy groups whose representatives attended the meeting. “They make basically three dollars an hour and that has not been the minimum wage in almost 35 years.”
Rusty Hicks and Laphonza Butler of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Service Employees International Union respectively said the new bureau is a positive step forward toward helping many low-wage workers make ends meet. They issued a joint statement:
“Today’s landmark decision by the board of supervisors means that workers will actually benefit from LA County’s minimum wage increase and not be left behind. Putting a system in place to ensure that employers are paying workers their fair share of hours is critical to protecting L.A. County’s working families.”
The board voted in September to adopt a minimum wage in unincorporated areas of the county that will increase to $15 by 2020.
A report by the county counsel found that the percentage of wage abuses were highest in the garment industry, with workers in domestic services, building services and retail businesses also experiencing high levels of wage theft.