LOS ANGELES - As efforts to create a wage theft ordinance in Los Angeles City Council move along, the LA Coalition Against Wage Theft marked Women's Equality day with a rally and a study highlighting how wage theft impacts families.
"Wage theft doesn't just have an impact on economic loss but it really has further consequences for the workers and their families and their communities. It really has a direct impact as health as well," said Aqui Soriano Versoza of the Pilipino Workers Center.
Health Impact Partners Researcher Fabiola Santiago said, "Wage theft impedes workers to provide basic living needs for their families".
The proposed ordinance, which is still being written by the city attorney, would push harsher penalties on employers guilty of wage theft. Violations include unpaid overtime and breaks, salaries below the minimum wage or simply not paying workers their salaries.
The practice costs workers in the nation's second largest city $26 million a week in lost wages.
The study identifies domestic workers such as caregivers as the most vulnerable to wage theft.
Amelia Bernachea first moved to the US working around the clock as a caregiver and not getting paid the right salary. She was forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet as she tried to support her family in the Philippines.
"My main purpose was for the education of my children because it's good to stay in the office but it's not enough for the education. You still had to mortgage your land," she said.
Several City Council members are pushing for the ordinance.
"I think we can do it here in Los Angeles. It's about time Los Angeles took this step to protect our lowest wage workers," said LA City Council Paul Koretz.
Council member Bernard Parks added, "This issue has been lingering in City Council since 2009. It's time for us to stop talking about it to put it on the books and begin to enforce it".
Advocates know it will take time to create and enforce a wage theft law but with the efforts that city officials community members and workers are putting into it, they're confident that the ordinance will eventually pass and be implemented.
Read more from Balitang America.