NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On Wednesday, the New Brunswick City Council unanimously passed an ordinance banning wage-theft, setting a precedent and making New Brunswick the first municipality in the state of New Jersey to pass such a law.
After looking through a detailed report of its affect in New Brunswick, receiving a petition with over 1,000 signatures, and patiently listening for months to public comments from New Labor members, many of whom were victims of wage theft, the City Council finally approved the law.
The vote caps a months-long deliberation between the Council and community groups pushing for stronger protections for workers. Mayor James Cahill is expected to sign the ordinance into law.
According to a press release, “The ordinance, which takes effect on January 1st, applies to the licenses the City issues for the operation of food service, retail, and a variety of other types of businesses within its boundaries. These licenses must be reapplied for every year”.
In November, the council passed a resolution calling on the state government to grant cities the power to punish those businesses guilty of wage theft in municipal court.
Councilman John Anderson was quoted by Muckgers saying, “This ordinance proves that cooperation between the people and the council of the city can go a long way,” lauding the efforts of both New Labor and Unity Square in terms of approaching the issue.
New Labor was developed in New Brunswick in to protect workers’ rights in New Jersey, and help immigrant workers organize and promote their rights.
Wage theft, the withholding of earnings for full worked performed or the payment of less than the required minimum wage and overtime standards set by the state, is a widespread issue that affects many people from different socio-economic backgrounds.
From part-time working students to immigrant families, residents of New Brunswick have long been victims of wage theft. New Labor issued a report on the issue that said it affects 20% of households within the areas studied.
Unity Square Partnership, a project of the Sacred Heart Church in New Brunswick, is a neighborhood organization that was also heavily involved in the campaign to pass the ordinance.
Jad is a local writer, organizer, and life-long resident of New Brunswick. He is a graduate of both Rutgers University and The University of Toronto.