Claiming Rights, Reclaiming Dignity: Examining the Legal Mobilization of Low-Wage Workers

Shannon Gleeson, University of California, Santa Cruz

This paper examines the claims-making experiences of a 453 low-wage workers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Findings reveal that workers in the construction industry, those paid in cash, the undocumented, and white workers, are more likely to experience wage theft. There is no discernible pattern for which type of worker is more likely to first try resolving their claim directly with their employer. However, amongst those who do, non-English speakers and restaurant workers are more likely to report receiving retaliatory threats. For those who avoid direct confrontation, undocumented workers are more likely to report fear as a major deterrent. Very low-educated workers and those who are still employed by their offending employer are less likely to have gone directly to a government agency for help. The paper ends with a brief discussion of key themes of challenges that persist throughout the life of a legal claim.

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Presented in Poster Session 8