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Wage Theft Ordinance Yields Results For Disenfranchised Workers

Two Years After Implementation, Workers Are Getting Employers to Pay Judgments
Day of Action: Wage Theft
Day of Action: NJDOL Takes a Stand Lou Kimmel

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Former employees of New Brunswick restaurants who say they were owed money by their old bosses have found a city ordinance passed in 2014 useful in getting the money they were owed.

On November 18, a caravan of protesters stopped at La Cabanita Dominican Restaurant on Elizabeth Street, an establishment which owed workers a total of $11,599 in wages.

But protest wan't their only tool: New Brunswick became the first city in the state to pass an anti-wage-theft law, which prevents business licenes from being renewed if the company's owner has any outstanding wage claims where the NJ Department of Labor found they owed workers money.

Under pressure from City Clerk Daniel Torrisi, whose job it is to manage the city's business licenses, the restaurant reached an agreement to pay that full amount owed in monthly installments beginning on December 1.

The caravan concluded Newark, hold an action at Cunha Construction, which holds a judgement via NJDOL for $1,319.50 and $5,049.00 that have remained unpaid.

But in New Brunswick, where an ordinanace targeting wage theft is already on the books, workers have made advances in obtaining money they were owed.

One such case is that of Maria Salazar, a former employee of Felix Rojas, who owns the Costa Chica Mexican Restaurant & Pizzeria.

Salazar secured a judgment of $6,341.50, and Rojas was also required to pay a penalty fee of $2,734.15 to the NJ Commisioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

New Labor, a local organization that serves as a union for the non-unionized, organized the successful "day of action" caravan, which drew around 60 people, both workers and advocates.

The caravan also made visits to Lakewood and Newark, two other communities where New Labor has a base of support.

In Lakewood, the participants delivered a packet to the Mayor’s Office detailing action to start a push toward a local anti-wage theft ordinance in that community.