California stands out among states for its efforts and policies to tackle wage theft given its union density, number of worker centers and public dollars committed to combating the problem, said David Cooper, a researcher who has studied wage theft at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, which is based in Washington, D.C.
Union members accounted for 15.9% of wage and salary workers in California, compared to 10.3% nationally. That higher than average membership helps workers identify wage theft, Cooper said.
“California has far more immigrants than a lot of other places, and we know that immigrants, and people of color generally, tend to more likely be victims of wage theft,” said Cooper, who is director of the institute’s Economic Analysis and Research Network, which coordinates nearly 60 state and local research and advocacy efforts nationally.
“Immigrants who are either undocumented, or may have family who are undocumented, are not going to speak up as vocally if their rights are being violated.”
Cooper said the thousands of wage theft claims filed in California each year are likely an undercount of stolen pay cases.