A survey of 124 South Coast workers conducted by UCSB labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein found that wage rates remain stagnant even though unemployment rates have now dropped to a historic low of 4 percent. This violates basic economic theory, Lichtenstein noted via a UCSB press release. “That’s inexplicable in a theoretical sense,” he said. In four out of five job categories, Lichtenstein said Santa Barbara’s median hourly wages were lower than those of California in general.
Lichtenstein — who is actively supporting a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage in the City of Santa Barbara from $9 an hour to $15 — said he also discovered that many of workers surveyed were subjected to “wage theft,” meaning they were not paid overtime or given the time off legally required for breaks and meals. In addition, he found a large number felt pressured to work while sick or risk losing their job. Roughly two-thirds of the workers Lichtenstein surveyed were Latino. Undocumented workers, he said, skewed the results. “If you’re undocumented, then everything is worse,” he said.