San Diego City and County Administration Building / File photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors moved forward Tuesday with a new policy intended to crack down on wage theft and other complaints coming from janitorial, landscaping and security workers.

One of those workers told elected officials ahead of their 4-0 vote that she’s spent 30 years making minimum wage, in poor conditions without insurance or benefits. Support also came from local unions.

The county’s new policy requires that companies bidding for these contracts include labor peace and collective bargaining agreements. It also establishes a wage floor for workers every five years based on a comparison to other jurisdictions and requires that a portion of the money awarded to companies be set aside and only released at the end the contract if no wage theft claims are made. 

Elected officials referred to this pot of money as “a first-of-its-kind wage theft fund.”

These changes are expected to be phased in over the next several years as current contracts expire. It’s part of a series of workforce protections pushed by the Democrat-majority on the board that also included the creation of an Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement.

Chair Nathan Fletcher said the policy approved Tuesday will ensure that its contracted workers are paid fairly and treated with the basic dignity they deserve, including paid sick time.

“We appreciate you and recognize you and see the value that you bring,” he said. “But we know our words alone aren’t enough.”

Wage theft is a widespread and age-old problem that’s received renewed attention during the pandemic. Relying on state data, CalMatters reported that in 2021 California workers filed nearly 19,000 stolen wage claims totaling more than $338 million.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said many of these same workers are also victims of sexual harassment and unjust firings, and the new policy makes clear where these workers can report violations.

“Contracted employees in these fields are inherently vulnerable to these abuses,” she said.

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