The Houston Chronicle reports that the controversial “Wage Theft” ordinance was been unanimously approved (Helena Brown was absent) by the City Council. As the astute may recall, this proposal was first proposed in July, before being shelved in August, resurrected shortly after the election, and temporarily delayed again last week. Needless to say, it has been a bumpy ride for this ordinance, but it paid off for proponents today.
The law creates a coordinator (Czar) to monitor instances of wage theft in the City of Houston and blacklist those employers who engage in it from receiving city contracts. Wage theft can take many forms including the misclassification of workers, denial of benefits or simply overt wage withholding. While original proposals consisted of items such as lifetime bans from city contracts for engaging in wage theft, the final version is a more mellow 5 year exclusion. Additionally, while the original proposal would impose the blacklist after a final conviction and only overturn it upon successful appeal, the approved ordinance would only impose the blacklist after the employer “exhausts all available appeals.”
Despite the somewhat watered-down version of the ordinance, proponents of the measure have reason to celebrate. The ordinance is one of the first of its kind in the country, as well as the very first in the State of Texas (that’s right, we beat Austin). Perhaps most notably, this piece of legislation passed without any dissent from more conservative, business-friendly Councilmembers. This included Dave Martin, the District E Councilmember, who was notoriously critical of the ordinance last summer.
Texas GOP Vote even did a piece of the measure recently, and declared that Michael Kubosh, a conservative City Council candidate and high-profile critic of the Mayor, supports the ordinance.
I am curious to see what type of news this drums out in the coming days. As Texpatriate‘s editorial board noted yesterday when we endorsed this ordinance, it is a hard topic to oppose, as it combines worker’s rights with the sacred status of contracts in a market economy.