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Florida lawmakers continue to overlook efforts to combat wage theft | Tampa

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Florida Lawmakers Continue to Ignore Efforts to Reestablish State Labor Department to Combat Wage Theft

Florida Democrats Continue Fight to Reestablish State Labor Department to Combat Wage Theft

Florida Democrats, led by Rep. Angie Nixon and Sen. Victor Torres, have been fighting for the reestablishment of a state Department of Labor to combat wage theft. Despite repeated attempts over the past four years, their efforts have been consistently ignored by their Republican colleagues in the state Legislature.

The state labor department was dissolved in 2002 by former Gov. Jeb Bush, leaving Florida without a mechanism to enforce minimum wage laws and combat wage theft. Nixon and Torres have filed legislation each year to recreate a state labor department, but their bills have never received a single committee hearing.

This year, Nixon withdrew her original bill and instead pushed for the creation of a state Division of Labor Standards, a more practical proposal. Torres filed a similar bill in the Senate. The proposed division would be tasked with enforcing Florida’s minimum wage laws and investigating wage theft cases.

Despite the importance of such a division, the bill has faced opposition from powerful business lobbying groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce. These groups have actively worked to defeat the legislation, citing concerns about government interference in the employer-employee relationship.

In the absence of a state labor department, some cities and counties in Florida have established their own local wage recovery programs. These programs have been successful in recovering unpaid wages for workers who have been victims of wage theft.

However, efforts to address wage theft at the state level have been met with resistance from Republican leaders. Preemption bills have been introduced to block local wage recovery programs, further hindering efforts to combat wage theft in Florida.

Sen. Torres, who has been a vocal advocate for reestablishing a state labor department, believes that meaningful change will only come when the makeup of the state Legislature changes. He emphasizes the importance of having a state agency to enforce worker protections, combat wage theft, and advocate for workers in labor disputes.

Despite the challenges faced by Democrats in the state Legislature, they remain committed to fighting for the rights of Florida’s workers and ensuring that they receive fair wages for their work.

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