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San Diego taxpayers are doing business with lawbreakers. It’s high time for a crackdown.

We have a law on the books that says contractors have to be good corporate citizens if they want a chunk of our considerable collective business. Companies holding service contracts with the city of San Diego have to pay their workers — our fellow community members — a living wage. That includes health coverage or an extra health stipend.

But many contractors have found they can skirt the law. In August, staff from the Center on Policy Initiatives, the Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund and members of the Living Wage Coalition spread out to city worksites and found rampant violation of the living wage law.

CPI has a package of proposals to strengthen enforcement:

  • We need penalties strong enough to deter contractors from breaking the law.
  • We need whistleblower protections for workers who report violations of the living wage or any quality issue.
  • We need a fair, open system of investigating complaints promptly.
  • We need to clarify who is covered by the living wage law and end unfair exclusions.

The City Council is expected to vote in October on these measures. We will be there with the stories of workers for responsible contractors whose family lives have improved because of the living wage, and of those cheated by irresponsible contractors.

Especially in this time of financial crisis, with those at the top of the income scale demanding handouts in the name of communal solvency, it’s time to do right by those at the bottom. The real solution to shore up our national and local economy is to move all workers into the middle class.

— SUSAN DUERKSEN

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