Low-Wage Work

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Newsletter

The Labor Center conducts a wide range of research on low-wage work in California and nationally. Our research focuses on documenting and understanding working conditions in low-wage industries, especially for women, immigrants, and workers of color. We also analyze policies to raise labor standards at the local, state, and national levels.

For an in-depth description of California’s low-wage workforce, see our Data Explorer.

You can also visit our Black Worker project.

Minimum wage, living wage, and other labor standards studies.

Research on the societal and fiscal costs of low-wage work.

In-depth studies of labor markets and working conditions in low-wage industries.

Research & Publications
Press Coverage
    TechEquity Collaborative

    Prop 22: What You Need to Know

    Prop 22 would legalize the companies’ current practice of classifying drivers as independent contractors, preventing them from access to the benefits and protections that employment status offers. Prop 22 does mandate certain pay, reimbursement, and benefit standards for drivers, but there are loopholes in these standards which erode their value.

    Sacramento Bee

    Fact check: Will Uber, Lyft drivers get paid less than minimum wage under Proposition 22?

    Under Proposition 22, drivers will not be paid for the time they are waiting to give a ride, nor the time they spend preparing and cleaning their cars. That time accounts for some 33% of the drivers’ working time, Jacobs said, citing a 2019 study that looked at Lyft and Uber rides in six metropolitan areas across the country, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    The Guardian

    Walmart cuts workers’ hours but increases workload as sales rise amid pandemic

    Walmart is estimated to save around $2.2bn annually from the tax cut bill. Before the bill was passed, Walmart announced plans to spend $20bn over the next two years on stock buybacks. Ken Jacobs, the chair of the University of California at Berkeley Labor Center has estimated it would cost Walmart $3.8bn to increase their minimum wage to $15 an hour, the level being lobbied for by the Fight for $15 movement, Senator Bernie Sanders and others.

    Los Angeles Times

    Column: State and local budgets face a pandemic-related meltdown. Why won’t Republicans help?

    While every thinking person is rightly worried about the prospect of a third U.S. wave of COVID-19 cases and deaths, one should take a moment to contemplate a pandemic-related disaster in which the first wave is just beginning. That’s the meltdown of state and local government budgets produced by the higher costs of dealing with the crisis combined with the collapse of revenues.

    Capital & Main

    Racial Justice Activists Split Over Proposition 22

    According to Ken Jacobs and Michael Reich of the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center, engaged time is only 67 percent of a driver’s shift, and workers under Proposition 22 could make as little as $5.64 an hour. “Not paying for [wait] time would be the equivalent of a fast food restaurant or retail store saying they will only pay the cashier when a customer is at the counter,” they wrote in 2019.