A Shrinking Toolbox

The Corporate Efforts to Eliminate PAGA and Limit California Worker’s Rights

February 2024

The Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) is a strong tool for California workers, empowering them to collectively fight back against labor violations and hold their employers accountable. It's no surprise that corporate special interest groups are trying hard to repeal PAGA, but we're fighting back.

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Produced by the UCLA Labor Center, PowerSwitch Action, and the Center for Popular Democracy. 

Since 2003, California workers have used the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) to file lawsuits and defend themselves against labor violations. But now, corporate special interest groups are attacking PAGA and attempting to repeal it via a ballot initiative that would dramatically alter the landscape for California workers. This report details the fight to save the Private Attorney General Act (also known as PAGA) and the Labor Commissioner’s Office, both under attack by corporate special interests out to diminish worker power and maintain their runaway profits. It thoroughly debunks employer talking points and lays bare their true intentions, demonstrating the positive impact PAGA has had for workers.

Key findings include:

  • PAGA is crucial to enforce labor laws where workers have signed arbitration clauses. PAGA filings have increased in direct proportion to the explosion in forced arbitration clauses since the early 2000s.
  • Between 2018 and 2021, worker whistleblowers have filed more than 4,208 PAGA notices with the LWDA in the following strategic high violation industries: agriculture, auto repair, car wash, garment, janitorial, restaurant, retail, and warehouse. This is nearly three times the number of inspections the Bureau of Field Enforcement was able to conduct during the same time period.
  • PAGA liability creates a market incentive to comply with labor laws. Corporations are incentivized to invest in compliance with labor and employment laws when noncompliance presents a significant threat to their profits.
  • PAGA penalties fund labor law outreach, public enforcement, and education. Last fiscal year, PAGA generated $209 million for the LWDA.
  • PAGA suits address wage theft and other serious violations. More than nine out of ten (91%) of PAGA claims allege wage theft, including overtime violations (79% of cases) and failure to pay for all hours worked (76% of cases).

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