Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone submitted a proposed ordinance related to Wage Theft to the Somerville Board of Aldermen at their regular meeting on Thursday, April 11.
The proposed ordinance includes language in the city’s code of ordinances granting city boards and commissions, where allowed by state law, the authority to deny applications for licenses or permits, for businesses found liable of or guilty, or who admit liability or guilt related to a violation of Massachusetts General Laws pertaining to payment of wages. The ordinance would also grant authority to revoke existing licenses or permits, or issues penalties as necessary.
“Individuals affected by wage theft are often among the most vulnerable in our city, and may not have the resources or necessary information to appeal for unpaid wages, and it is our duty as community leaders to create legislation that encourages greater enforcement of state and federal laws,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Local businesses are integral to the fabric of this community, and in investing in our local economy, but we must ensure that their employees are treated fairly and given every opportunity to succeed.”
“We believe the problem of wage theft in Somerville is much bigger than most people would assume,” said Rand Wilson, a union organizer and local labor rights activist who spearheaded the signature gathering. “That’s why more than 190 people signed the petition requesting a public hearing. Support from Mayor Curtatone for a wage theft ordinance is appreciated because it improves the likelihood of its becoming law and sends a strong message about fairness to our entire community. Our objective is to make Somerville a fairer place to work and do business.”
“Violations of labor rights are a systemic problem affecting all workers,” said Patricia Montes, Director of Centro Presente, a Somerville-based immigrant rights group that has been assisting many victims of wage theft. “Immigrant workers are even more vulnerable to this exploitation. The enormous movement of immigrants to the U.S. is the result of a global economic system that exploits the rights of workers in their own countries.”
The Board of Aldermen referred the proposed ordinance to the Legislative Matters Committee for a recommendation.