Victory! Wage Theft Ordiance passes in San Francisco

by Anne Ryan | Communications Associate

Do you enjoy bathroom breaks and sick time at work? Does your paycheck arrive on time every month?

While these standard labor practices are recognized in many workplaces, there are still employers who regularly and unapologetically refuse to recognize the law. As a result, hundreds of employees endure abusive working conditions each year in the City of San Francisco alone.

Progressive Workers Alliance outside Wage Theft Hearing. Photo credit: Asian American Movement Ezine (

However, these employees now have a chance at justice. And in your support of DataCenter, you had a hand in elevating the voices of workers so they can demand that chance. On August 2, 2011, San Francisco city officials enacted the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance, which strengthens the city’s ability to enforce labor laws. Led by the Progressive Worker Alliance, the campaign was fortified by the 2010 Chinese Progressive Association Report Check, Please!, which DataCenter helped write, that exposed the sweatshop conditions of Chinatown restaurant workers.

Campaign organizer Shaw-san Liu of Chinese Progressive Alliance said, “The Progressive Workers Alliance Campaign to End Wage Theft has been going really well, and our report on Chinatown health and working conditions has been a key part of laying the groundwork. [The Check, Please! Report] contributions are huge to our organizing work today!”

As one San Francisco low-wage worker and wage theft victim said in the Check, Please! study,

“Being a dog would be better than being a worker in the United States.”

The Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance in San Francisco seeks to change this fact. The ordinance grants more power to the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement, which investigates wage theft cases in the city. Additionally, employers who retaliate against a worker who reports an abuse will now pay a double fine. (Read the full ordinance.)

The stories and testimonies of low-wage workers, both in the Check, Please! Report and city council hearings, were the driving force of creating positive, imperative social change for workers in San Francisco. The San Francisco Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance is one step closer to justice for workers in the city community and across the globe.

Other partners that participated in the implementation of the Check, Please! Report include San Francisco Department of Public Health; University of California San Francisco Medical School; University of California Berkeley School of Public Health; and the University of California, Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program.