The ordinance will create a wage theft coordinator position who will assist workers within city limits with complaints of violations.
As part of the coordinator’s role, a database will be created and made publicly available consisting of state and federal labor violations committed by employers. The city will bar any employer identified in the database from entering into contracts in Austin.
The ordinance is an amendment to City Code Title 4 and will establish wage theft standards and action against those who violate city contracts.
In January, Council Member Ann Kitchen sponsored a resolution requesting improvement to the wage theft policy, initiating this ordinance.
“This is a very important and key protection for our workers in the city,” Kitchen said.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Council Members Kathie Tovo, Vanessa Fuentes and Sabino Renteria and then-Council Member Greg Casar.
On Dec. 1, council members heard multiple speakers in support of the ordinance, including Fabiola Barreto, the Austin policy coordinator for the Workers Defense Project, an organization for workers rights.
“This ordinance provides support for workers by referring their cases to the correct investigative authorities and provides a form of accountability for abusive employers,” Barreto said Dec. 1. “This ordinance is a huge step forward towards preventing wage theft in our city.”
Austin is the third city in Texas to pass an ordinance preventing wage theft, following El Paso and Houston.
“It will help responsible employers, taxpayers and workers in Austin,” said Gary Warren, political director for the Carpenters Union, on Dec. 1. “Law-abiding employers are often undercut by bad actors and can’t compete with those who cheat.”