UFW-approved California law allows employers to keep part of what they owe workers in back pay. So the workers are suing the state over what they call “wage theft.”
“Farmworkers are suing the state of California over a law they say sanctions wage theft by protecting businesses who didn’t pay their employees,” the Desert Sun reports.
The workers say that the UFW-backed law limits the amount of money workers can collect, and lets (politically connected) businesses get away with not paying penalties when they fail to meet their commitments.
The law, AB 1513, was crafted behind closed doors with the UFW and pushed through the legislature late in 2015.
Employers ‘ripping off employees for years’
“These wages have never been paid,” attorney Stan Mallison said. “The employers have been ripping off employees for years and years and years. They are owed wages and (the employers) have been holding off on paying them hoping that they’ll get relief from the governor and that’s what happened.”
AB 1513 was rigged to protect politically favored employers from lawsuits from defrauded workers, and from paying penalty fees for not having paid just wages. That, in Pick Justice’s view, is wage theft.
Law ‘allows businesses to take away farmworkers’ property’
“The lawsuit claims the law is unconstitutional because it allows businesses to take away farmworkers’ property – specifically, the wages they earned but were never paid,” according to the Desert Sun.
Politicians in Sacramento singled out companies involved in lawsuits with the UFW, to penalize them. Those companies, Gerawan Farming and Fowler Packing, have filed suit to seek the same protections as other companies.
A federal district court rejected the companies’ claims, but last month, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, consisting of 3 judges, said that the district judge was wrong and the law is unconstitutional.