Cincinnati is taking measures to ensure workers receive a fair wage. Earlier this month, Cincinnati became the first Ohio city to pass a wage theft ordinance. The ordinance imposes penalties on employers who do business in the city of Cincinnati and who do not pay their employees the wages they have earned. These wages often take the form of tips, overtime, and simply withholding pay. This ordinance would also apply to prevailing wage that was not properly paid to workers.

Under the new ordinance, if a company was found to be withholding wages, they would be required to pay that money back and would be banned from doing business within the city. A 2009 study by the National Employment Law Project revealed that of 4,500 low wage workers, a stunning 60% were underpaid each week, totaling $2,634 per year in unpaid wages. This would equate to about $52 million lost per year in Cincinnati due to wage theft.

Currently the State of Ohio has 5 wage investigators which has steadily declined from 15 in 2008.

Cincinnati City Council passed the measure 7-2, with Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn voting “no”.  The two Republicans cited undocumented workers as the issue for their lack of support, claiming that illegal alien workers would directly profit from this law. Proponents of the legislation responded by stating that all employers have to follow federal and state wage law, regardless of a workers immigration status.

The U.S. Department of Labor under both President Obama and President Bush enforced federal wage laws, regardless of undocumented status.

Brennan Grayson, Director of the Interfaith Workers Center helped craft the ordinance. He commented to the Cincinnati Enquirer “Cincinnati’s new ordinance is a model for all Ohio cities and sends a message that economic development projects will protect the dignity of wage earners.”

ACT Ohio supports the City of Cincinnati’s efforts to crack down on wage theft by unscrupulous employers.