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Somerville activists, legal aid seek to combat rampant wage theft

Somerville bosses have been quietly cheating employees out of tens of thousands of dollars for years now. But a coalition of labor groups, unions, the Our Revolution Somerville Labor Committee and other worker advocates are hoping to put an end to “wage theft,” includes instances where employers deny workers wages and benefits, such as a lunch break, tips, paid sick time, or when they force employees to work off the clock. Some Somerville residents hope to resolve the problem by changing city ordinances.

Ben Traslavina of Greater Boston Legal Services told a gathering of residents that Somerville’s current wage theft law is ineffectual.

“It only comes into effect if a company has been found to have criminally violated the law,” he explained. “As all of you know, prosecutions, criminal prosecutions of wage theft, are almost non-existent. It’s on the books but it’s a dead letter.”

Traslavina, who has been helping craft language that would essentially replace the existing ordinance, noted that while it’s difficult to prosecute employers, cities and towns have power.

“We do have, as a municipality, the power to decide what businesses can work in our community,” he noted…Read more in the Somerville Times.