Degree Name

MA in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations

First Advisor

Jeff Unsicker


Migrant day laborers have contributed significantly to the growth of the economy in the United States. Because they work in any industry, the day labor market covers thousands of workers, employers and workplaces. The estimation of day laborers in the United States as of 2004 is 117,6000, and the number of day laborers is growing every year in response to the economic situation. Despite the significant numbers of day laborers working in the United States, the day labor population is poorly understood because of their nature of work in an underground economy.

The day laborers suffer from many workplace violations. Among them, the wage theft is the most common abuse that they experience. Wage theft of day laborers has become such a routine that day laborers often give up their wages. Consequently, unscrupulous employers keep stealing the wages.

This paper is written to inform the target, the Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement (DLSE), about the situation of day laborers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Advocates, such as day labor centers and National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON), can use this paper for their future campaigns to reduce wage theft of day laborers and improve day laborers’ working conditions.

This paper follows the guidelines for option 2 of the Policy Advocacy Course-linked Capstones. The product is a policy paper on secondary literature and primary data collected by interviewing day laborers, staff members of day labor centers and government enforcement agencies, as well as participating in daily activities, special events, conferences, workshops and meetings that deal with the issue of day laborers. The paper discusses economic and immigration policies that affect day laborers; describes what day laborers and the day labor market are; explains the wage theft that day laborers experience; and identifies at least five causes of wage theft. It concludes by providing recommendations to better enforce the labor laws to deter the wage theft of day laborers.


Work, Economy and Organizations


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