Eight months after the passage of a wage theft ordinance that enabled the City of El Paso to refuse government contracts to employers that violated wage theft laws, Border Interfaith and EPISO leaders celebrated the passage of a stronger ordinance that allows the city to revoke the operating license of any business that refuses to pay their workers.
Taking the lead on Lift Up El Paso, a coalition of non-profits and congregational members of Border Interfaith and EPISO, organization leaders leveraged the support of Bishop Mark Seitz of the El Paso Catholic Diocese and local restaurant owners and construction companies to compel the City to pass this stricter ordinance. In several cases, owners were shocked there was even a fight to ensure their competitors don’t skirt labor laws. Said leader Eloiso de Avila, “This is an important step for El Paso to show that way for Texas…that we care about employees and that we are fair.”
Border Interfaith and EPISO furthermore secured the support of Texas State Representative Mary Gonzalez, county commissioners, other Texas state legislators and the local franchise owner of Chick fil-A. Organizational pressure prevailed over lobbyists flown in from Austin to try to block the new law.
El Paso Can Lead on Wage Theft Prevention, El Paso Times [pdf]
City Council Passed Amendment to Prevent Wage Theft, KDBC Channel 4 News
City Strengthens Wage Theft Ordinance, El Paso Proud (City of El Paso)
El Paso Council Passes Amendment Strengthening Protection Against Wage Theft, KFOX 14
City to Deny Permits to Companies with Wage Theft Convictions, KVIA
EPISO and allies, including the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, celebrated the passage of a wage theft ordinance created in collaboration with city council, El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Leeser declared that El Paso will be “only the second city [in the state of Texas] to ever” enable the city to refuse to award contracts to employers who violated wage theft laws.
Over the next 60 days, EPISO and Border Interfaith leaders will work with the city to consider amendments potentially granting additional powers to refuse to grant, or revoke, permits and licenses to wage theft violators.
El Paso Wage Theft Law Good for Workers, El Paso Times
El Paso Adopts Anti-Wage Theft Ordinance, El Paso Times
Citing research that the regional return on investment for Project ARRIBA‘s workforce development is $26 for every $1 invested, Border Interfaith and EPISO leaders persuaded the City Council of El Paso to increase funding to $1.5 Million over five years, rather than the $1.25 Million initially recommended by city staff. This is the single largest investment the city has made into ARRIBA since its inception.
This funding will enable the project to support the training and placement of 600 El Pasoans into living wage careers in the border region. Organization leaders are hopeful that this will help leverage matching funds from the State of Texas through the Texas Innovative Adult Career Education (ACE) Grant Program.
[In photo: Leaders from EPISO, Border Interfaith and Project ARRIBA explain what happened to reporters.]
$1.5 Million Approved to Help Students, KTSM News Channel 9