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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Wage Theft Along California’s South Coast: A Survey of Low Wage Workers in Santa Barbara and Goleta


The low-wage survey was designed to assess wages, hours, working conditions, and labor law violations in low-wage industries along the South Coast, especially those linked to the tourist, hospitality, and retail trade sectors of the local economy. In early 2014 the Santa Barbara office of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) first proposed the survey as part of its very recent effort to more effectively serve those working in the urban service economy.  Although unemployment in Santa Barbara has dropped to just 4 percent and most low wage workers in the survey benefit from something close to a 40 hour work week, wages seem not to have responded to these demand-side pressures: they are stagnant, little higher than for similar occupations in California as a whole. Various forms of “wage theft,” illegal employer behavior involving overtime pay, rest breaks, and other mandated benefits and standards, have reached epidemic proportions, especially for undocumented workers.

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