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May 30, 2024 | 563 total views

On April 12, the Latinx Task Force resumed its work on a recommendation report addressing the rise in Latinos experiencing homelessness. The monthly meeting featured presentations from Armando Gudino, Margaret Robinson, Isidro Villanueva, and Jason Barnette.

Task Force member Armando Gudino — Executive Director of the Los Angeles Worker Center Network — encouraged the Task Force to consider the impact of wage theft on Latino homelessness. Wage theft occurs when employers fail to provide either proper pay or benefits to their employees. Examples of wage theft include unpaid overtime, lack of meal or rest breaks, tip stealing, and more.

This crime is especially relevant to the Latino community given its frequency in low-wage, Latino-dominated industries: maintenance, restaurants, construction, car washes, and more. Immigrant Angelenos earn below minimum wage at more than double the rate of US-born Angelenos. Over half of Latinas experience minimum wage violations in any given week. A shocking 30% of Los Angeles workers receive less than minimum wage. All of this amounts to somewhere between $26 million and $28 million in lost wages for workers in Los Angeles County every week, making Los Angeles the wage theft capital of the nation.

Furthermore, these crimes affect victims in already dire circumstances. Sixty-five percent of Hispanic households report an inability to pay for necessities should they miss out on more than one paycheck. Yet, low-income Angelenos lose an estimated 12.5% of their income to wage theft every year. Therefore, Gudino argued more efficient and effective enforcement of wage theft laws could be a pivotal piece of a preventative strategy to address Latino homelessness in Los Angeles.

Task Force members then heard from Margaret Robinson — a guest speaker from the City of Los Angeles’ Office of Wage Standards, a branch of government charged with enforcing wage-theft laws.

Margaret Robinson outlined the City’s process for investigating wage-theft claims. On average, the entire process takes about a year and a half, and the average recovery is about $237. However, as Task Force members pointed out, both wait times and recovered dollars would see improvements with greater staff capacity and funding. Improved enforcement would also more effectively punish known, chronic offenders for repeated violations of workers’ rights.

Next, Isidro Villanueva — a guest speaker from Los Angeles County’s Department of Economic Opportunity — and Jason Barnette — a guest speaker from Kingdom Causes — spoke about programs that help people experiencing homelessness integrate into the workforce.

Isidro Villanueva highlighted specific County programs designed to help people experiencing homelessness find work: Los Angeles Regional Incentive for Social Enterprise (LA: RISE) and Homeless Opportunities for Meaningful Employment (HOME). Each of these programs provides support ranging from job training and career development to retention services and subsidized employment.

Then, Jason Barnette explained how service providers like Kingdom Causes partner with the County to find qualified candidates for these programs. Thanks in part to funding from LA: RISE, Kingdom Causes runs Good Soil Industries, an enterprise that helps people with barriers to employment find work.

Understanding how our system currently functions allows Task Force members to conceptualize new ways of leveraging it to address factors contributing to Latino homelessness, namely wage theft and the lack of employment opportunities. By integrating these ideas into its recommendations, the Task Force can help shape how lawmakers tackle these issues moving forward.

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