Today, the City of San José took a significant step in combating wage theft in the construction industry by approving a Responsible Construction Ordinance (RCO). This ordinance empowers the City to withhold certificates of occupancy for private construction projects if owners, developers, contractors, or subcontractors have unpaid wage theft judgments. This powerful law not only safeguards workers by preventing and prosecuting wage theft but also supports responsible businesses that prioritize fair compensation for their employees.
This triumph is the result of a five-year campaign which brought together labor and community allies led by Working Partnerships USA, the South Bay Labor Council, the Santa Clara Building Trades Council and the Wage Theft Coalition, elected representatives and local contractors who are committed to building a city which values its workforce.
Despite roadblocks, pushback and lobbying by a few wealthy, well-connected developers, San José Councilmembers voted to move forward with a memo which represented a fair compromise that strikes a balance that benefits both workers and responsible businesses. The memo, from Councilmembers Davis, Jimenez, Torres, Ortiz, and Foley satisfactorily addressed businesses’ questions about compliance while ensuring that workers still have a robust tool to hold perpetrators of wage theft accountable. The decision reflects a balanced approach benefiting both workers and responsible businesses, marking a victory for labor rights and fair business practices.
Ahead of the vote, Senator Dave Cortese sent a letter to City Council offering his support for the powerful ordinance: “By requiring companies with outstanding unpaid final wage theft judgments — that is, companies who are currently in violation of State law – to pay the judgment owed before they are awarded a Certificate of Occupancy, the City’s proposed ordinance empowers victims of wage theft to be made whole in partnership with the City.”
“This has been a long battle for worker protections, with challenges from well-connected developers and a lack of political will. We’re grateful to our City Council champions, Davis, Jimenez, Torres, Ortiz, and Foley, for taking accountability, and for their leadership in crafting a compromise that truly works for working folks,” said Jean Cohen, Executive Officer, South Bay Labor Council.
“Today, we made it clear that there is no room for wage theft in our city. The Responsible Construction Ordinance not only protects the vital construction workforce but also sets a strong example for implementing fair work standards across various sectors, including fast food and childcare,” says Maria Noel Fernandez, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA.
Working Partnerships USA – Working Partnerships USA is a 501c3 non profit focused on research, advocacy and building the political power of people of color, immigrants, women, low-income residents and workers. They’re committed to building inclusive regional economies where everyone has a good job, a home, access to care and a voice in their government. Their work is rooted in racial justice and labor rights, and driven by the urgent need to address the growing economic inequality in Silicon Valley, and its impact on working families, now and into the future.
South Bay Labor Council – The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council represents 101 unions and more than 100,000 union members in Santa Clara and San Benito counties. For over 50 years the Labor Council has championed the cause of working families in the South Bay. The Labor Council’s primary goal is to advance candidates, causes, and policies that benefit working families. We achieve this objective with a combination of activities, including community organizing, leadership training, campaigning, and issues advocacy. The Labor Council is proud to run the largest, most sophisticated, grassroots political campaign operation in the South Bay.
Santa Clara Building Trades Council – The Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council proudly represents 27 building trade unions and district councils, with an affiliate membership of over 35,000 highly trained and skilled construction workers. Chartered on Feb. 9, 1960, the Building Trades Council has been the driving force for excellence in the construction industry. Our affiliated members create and rebuild local infrastructure, helping the region to grow and flourish. Through a focus on training, safety and quality work, our affiliates provide the highest level of professionalism, helping projects to come in on or under schedule and on or under budget.
Wage Theft Coalition – The Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition actively works to end wage theft, defend workers’ rights, and enforce wage theft judgments. We hope to accomplish this through policy advocacy, community organizing and outreach, direct action, education, leadership development, and resource coordination. We work with affected workers and their families, particularly low-wage workers who have been victims of the crime of wage theft.
Zeenab Aneez, email@example.com, 650-695-2184