Raising the Minimum Wage and Fighting Wage Theft for a Healthier San Mateo County
Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, June 2016
San Mateo County exemplifies both the promise and tension in making a Silicon Valley economy work for all. While the growing tech industry has fostered a high-paid and well-treated workforce, the low- and middle-wage workers who support the tech industry — those who clean homes and offices, prepare food, drive shuttle buses, construct office buildings and housing, maintain lawns and gardens, and care for children and the elderly, among other jobs —have a different story to tell about the state of the local economy. Currently, 17 percent of jobs in the County pay less than $15,000 per year, and the situation is likely to get worse, with over three quarters of the jobs added to the region by 2022 paying less than $50,000.
Yet low pay is not the only challenge these low and middle-wage workers face in San Mateo County. This report shows that many workers are simply never paid the wages they are owed. Problems such as wage theft detract from the overall quality of life for low-wage workers, as they harm the health and well-being of the workers themselves, their families, and entire communities. Enacting strong minimum and living wage policies, along with establishing robust enforcement mechanisms, are solid first steps to mitigating these problems.