Low-wage report presentation will include discussion on raising the minimum wage

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UC Santa Cruz students surveyed more than 1,300 low-wage workers in Santa Cruz County to get a sense of wages and working conditions. (Photos courtesy Working for Digniity)
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The fastest growing job openings over the next five years are food prep and service, retail sales, farming, personal care, and building and grounds cleaning and maintenance.

The final report from a study of low-wage workers in Santa Cruz County, produced by the UC Santa Cruz Center for Labor Studies, is set for release at a community event Thursday, Nov. 19 in downtown Santa Cruz.

The presentation will begin at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Art and History and will include a panel discussion on a statewide campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The event is free and the public is invited.  Refreshments will be provided

The discussion will include local workers and small business owners, community organizations, and experts on the minimum wage. Also participating are community groups working on affordable housing, wage theft and legal services, paid family and sick leave, voter registration, and immigration reform.

The report, “Working for Dignity: Low-wage Worker Study of Santa Cruz County,” is the culmination of a year-long project by more than 100 UC Santa Cruz students who surveyed 1,300 workers in service, farming, construction, and other low-wage industries around the county. Students produced a multimedia website showcasing their work at http://workingfordignity.ucsc.edu/.

Steve McKay, UC Santa Cruz associate professor of sociology and director of the Center for Labor Studies, who oversaw the study, calls it a “census of the invisible.” In May, the students presented their initial report that showed that low-wage workers in the county earn a median wage of about $10 an hour compared with a county median of $17.81, which itself is low compared with other parts of the state.

Low wages combined with a high cost of living – caused primarily by high rents – pushes 22 percent of county residents below the poverty line, according to the California Poverty Measure from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

Low-wage jobs are also the fastest growing, the students found.

Also participating in the project are California Rural Legal Assistance, the Chicano Latino Research Center at UCSC, and the Day Worker Center of Santa Cruz County. Thursday’s event is co-sponsored by the Economic Justice Alliance of Santa Cruz.