Posts Tagged ‘south florida’

Fla. bill would bar local crackdowns on wage theft

Posted on: February 17th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami (Pic by <a href="http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/PhotoAlbums/photoalbum.aspx?MemberId=4342&SessionId=61">Meredith Geddings</a>)

South Florida labor and worker’s rights organizations are mobilizing their members and calling on state senators to stop a GOP bill that would prohibit Florida cities and counties from passing ordinances that crack down on wage theft, the practice of stiffing workers out of money they are owed.

The Senate version of the bill — filed by state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs — is on the Judiciary committee calendar for Mon., Jan. 20. State Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, filed the legislation that passed a first vote in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee in early December, and a second vote in a House subcommittee in early January.

People Engaged in Active Community Efforts — aka PEACE, a coalition of 27 religious congregations from Palm Beach County — wrote to all the members of the Judiciary committee Thursday expressing their “sincere hope that you will oppose the bill.”

The letter adds:

We understand Senator Simmons plans on introducing an amendment that would provide for some sort of “courts” solution to the problem of wage theft locally. We know all too well what this so-called solution would look like, given that this is exactly what the opponents to our local Wage Theft Ordinance have pushed here in Palm Beach County. In fact, they have been successful in getting a pilot program up and running, dubbed the “Legal Aid Model,” which essentially refers victims of wage theft to the courts after an attempt at conciliation.

The letter also points to a study released in October that compares the wage theft project of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County with the wage theft program at the Department of Small Business Development of Miami-Dade County. That study found that Miami-Dade received and resolved a larger number of cases than did Legal Aid.

It also found that Palm Beach recovered 2.5 percent of the claim dollars through conciliation; Miami-Dade recovered 45 percent of claim dollars.

South Florida Jobs with Justice, which supports organized labor and workers, issued a press release Thursday calling on its members to contact Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, the chair of the Judiciary committee, urging her to kill the bill.

Jobs with Justice writes:

This bill, mis-titled Wage Theft Protection for Employees, does not protect employees but instead takes away the ability of local government to do so. Should the bill pass, workers throughout Miami-Dade County will no longer be able to seek viable help when they work and are not paid. And local governments in other counties won’t be able to step up and help their residences either.

In January, the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (known as RISEP) at Florida International University released a study that shows that wage theft — employers stiffing workers out of money they are owed — remains a widespread problem that affects millions of Floridians.

The report states what supporters of the local anti-wage theft ordinances have told The Florida Independent before: Existing federal workplace laws do not protect millions of workers, including “hospital, school, or government workers or workers at small, local firms, including contractors for larger companies.” Florida’s minimum wage law also excludes millions of workers “from protections against employers who withhold their earnings.”

The business lobby that supports the Goodson/Simmons bill includes the Florida Retail Federation, which has a pending court challenge against the Miami-Dade anti-wage theft ordinance, and Associated Builders and Contractors.

Samantha Hunter Padgett, deputy general counsel for the Florida Retail Federation, told the Independent in December that her organization supports Simmons’ bill because “existing state and federal laws address the issues raised in local wage theft ordinances.

Jeanette Smith, a registered Republican and a member of the Florida Wage Theft Task Force, opposes Goodson and Simmons’ bill. She tells the Independent that “a large number of employees in Florida do not fall under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, nor any other federal law.”

According to Smith, when opponents of local anti-wage theft ordinances say it’s a federal issue, “they’re assuming people can go to the wage and hours division of the federal department of labor for assistance, and they can’t.”

Environmental Protection Agency unveils budget

Posted on: February 13th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

The federal government on Monday released a proposed $8.344 billion budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for fiscal year 2013. Florida environmental groups applauded the announcement, arguing the money would help ensure that job-creating restoration projects (like some under way in the Everglades) will not come to a halt.

The budget proposes $1.2 billion in categorical grants for states that are “on the front lines” in implementing environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. That includes nearly $66 million for State and Tribal Air Quality Management grants, nearly $27 million for Pollution Control grants, and about $29 million for the Tribal General Assistance Program. The proposal also provides $2 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving funds, which will finance over $6 billion in wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects annually.

The proposal also includes $755 million in funding for the Superfund Cleanup program (which supports cleanup at hazardous waste sites), $576 million to support research and innovation and a $10 million increase to the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory for certification and compliance testing programs and to evaluate new biofuel technology.

The EPA has proposed $68 million, an increase of $11 million from fiscal year 2012, for “[reducing] chemical risks, [increasing] the pace of chemical hazard assessments, and [providing] the public with greater access to toxic chemical information.”

According to a press release sent out today, the budget includes $50 million in savings “by eliminating several EPA programs that have either completed their goals or can be implemented through other federal or state efforts.”

Overall, the Obama administration’s proposals would trim the EPA’s budget by about 1.2 percent, likely reducing aid to many states.

But the budget received high praise from Florida environmentalists for its inclusion of $231.75 million in funding for Everglades restoration. The proposed funding builds upon recent federal commitments to protect and restore the Everglades, such as the recent establishment of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area North of Lake Okeechobee.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced last month that the government would list four species of invasive exotic snakes currently plaguing the Everglades as “injurious” species that cannot be imported or sold across state lines — another (partial) victory for environmentalists.

“We have progressed farther than any ecosystem restoration program in the nation. Our top priority is to make sure that the investment in the largest ongoing construction project in South Florida reaps benefits for wildlife and people,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Audubon of Florida’s director of Everglades policy, in a press release sent out shortly after the budget proposal was unveiled.  “The funding proposed today would make sure that job-creating projects under construction do not come to a halt.”

Local Sierra Club opposes South Florida immigration detention center

Posted on: February 13th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Protesters demonstrate against the Corrections Corporation of America/Southwest Ranches proposal (FLORIDA INDEPENDENT/Marcos Restrepo).

The Broward Group of the Sierra Club last week announced its opposition to the federal immigration detention center set to be built in the South Florida town of Southwest Ranches.

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Occupy Miami protesters say they have been highlighting, not perpetuating homelessness

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by The American Independent 3 Comments

Occupy Miami supporters march on Bank of America (FLORIDA INDEPENDENT/Marcos Restrepo).

Five members of Occupy Miami said Tuesday night that despite last week’s eviction and arrests the movement will continue to meet and move forward with a campaign to support homeowners who have been evicted. (more…)

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day puts focus on new treatment models

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment
Tuesday marked the 12th National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and advocates are focusing “on empowering Black Americans to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic through education, testing, engagement and treatment.”

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Crafting national immigration policy is ‘an economic imperative,’ GOP officials say

Posted on: January 30th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

A panel of state and federal GOP officials who spoke at the Hispanic Leadership Network conference in Miami, Fla., Friday called for a national conversation on immigration reform at the federal level. (more…)

Occupiers arrested in Florida; protests continue against investor conference (UPDATE)

Posted on: January 24th, 2012 by The American Independent 2 Comments

An Occupy Miami poster (source: Facebook)

Updated 5:15 p.m., with video footage of the arrests.

Three protesters from the Occupy movements of Palm Beach and Miami were arrested Monday evening after they blocked the Camino Real bridge in Boca Raton to protest the 2012 GAIM conference, a major investor industry event. (more…)

(VIDEO) Muslim Republican on ‘Daily Show’ calls accusations of terrorist ties ridiculous

Posted on: January 6th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Nezar Hamze, a registered Republican and the executive director of the South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Florida Independent that accusations tying his organization to Muslim terrorists are ridiculous. (more…)