In summary

Visual journalism project gives California residents a platform to explain their unique stories across the state.

Nearly 19,000 Californians filed unpaid wage claims in 2021 for a variety of alleged infractions including unpaid overtime, skipped meal breaks or pay below minimum wage. And that’s just the people who filed claims.

These workers are often shown as a dataset, a fixed figure portrayed in charts and reports. CalMatters and CatchLight’s Local Visual Desk worked together to bring these struggles to light.

The collaboration captures seven people who describe their challenge with wage theft and gives them a voice, through a portrait, audio and text. The project is available in English and Spanish.

CalMatters members, major donors and foundations make such unique partnerships possible.

“These portraits and audio interviews reach beyond statistics – honoring lived experiences and adding more personal perspectives in complement to CalMatter’s existing reporting and information resources on wage theft,” said Jenny Jacklin-Stratton, CatchLight Local Director & Managing Editor.

“Central to our collaboration and the CatchLight Local Visual Desk’s model is thinking through using visual journalism to better represent, reach and engage community members in local issues as well as what solutions might be possible.” 

The visual and audio-based story on workers battling unpaid wages is part of CalMatters’ series called “A Waiting Game.” The stories examine the problem through public records, interviews with researchers who dig into the unseen wage theft world and direct conversations to understand the up-close struggles facing unpaid workers.

Read the 8-part series: Unpaid Wages: A Waiting Game

“Usually, when I see stories of wage theft, it’s with service industry jobs and it’s a class-action lawsuit. But with each story I covered, I realized that wage theft happens more often than is reported and in many different industries,” says Felix Uribe Photojournalist & 2019 CatchLight Local Fellow. “Visually, I wanted to capture the emotions of each person I interviewed while respecting their experience.”

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