The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) was established in 2001 as the first municipal labor standards enforcement agency in the country. As cities across the U.S. look to San Francisco as a model for labor standards enforcement, researchers with the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) at Rutgers University chose to study San Francisco’s minimum wage enforcement to determine the degree to which complaints in a given industry match overall industry compliance.
Specifically, this study analyzes the relationship between minimum wage complaints filed with OLSE and estimates of underlying minimum wage violations, using data from the U.S. government’s monthly survey of labor force participation (called CPS-MORG survey data). Our findings indicate that the complaint-based model is inadequate for many San Francisco workers who are most vulnerable to minimum wage violations.
Since OLSE’s inception, San Francisco has been at the forefront of innovative worker protections and outreach initiatives, including funding community-based organizations to conduct targeted outreach to vulnerable workers. OLSE’s longstanding history as a trailblazer ensures it is well-positioned to be the first municipal agency to embrace strategic enforcement and use data to bridge the gaps left by the complaint-based enforcement model.