Houston Could Become First Texas City To Punish Wage Theft

Houston is poised to become the first city in Texas to pass sanctions against employers who commit wage theft. Councilmembers will vote on an ordinance tomorrow that would prohibit the city from doing business with companies that withhold or otherwise steal wages from workers.

Last week, lobbyists made a last-ditch effort to change Houston's proposed ordinance on wage theft by asking for a final meeting with Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

Negotiations resulted in minor changes to the proposal that don't substantially affect how the city will deal with wage theft violators.

Laura Perez-Boston is executive director of the Fe y Justicia Worker Center in Houston, the group largely responsible for  bringing this issue to the city council.

"It does not pose a threat to any responsible business. It only creates consequences for those that are knowingly and willingly stealing wages from workers. And I think we've seen multiple responsible businesses come out to speak in favor of this because it also protects their interests being able to compete on a level playing field."

Perez-Boston says data from the Department of Labor shows an estimated $753 million is stolen from employees annually in the Houston area.

The city ordinance will create a database of companies convicted of wage theft and prohibit the city from doing business with them for five years.

City Councilmembers will vote on the ordinance tomorrow.


Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...