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Contact: Steven Pitts
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Labor Center reports on Black Workers

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Work with Dignity coverTo Work With Dignity: The Unfinished March Toward a Decent Minimum Wage
August 2013, by Sylvia Allegretto and Steven Pitts

The demand for an increase in the national minimum wage during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was part of a package of demands seeking economic justice for workers through government intervention in the labor market. UC Berkeley Labor Center Labor Policy Specialist Steven Pitts and UC Berkeley Labor Economist Sylvia Allegretto co-authored this new report on the unfinished march toward a decent minimum wage as a part of the Economic Policy Institute's Unfinished March project.

Data Brief: Blacks in Unions: 2012
Report CoverApril 2013, by Steven Pitts
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» Press Release PDF
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This report reveals that the proportion of Black workers in unions in 2012 exceeded the national average. Black union density—the proportion of Black workers that belong to unions—exceeded the union density of non-Black workers. In 2012, 13.1 percent of Black workers were in unions; for non-Black workers, the figure was 11.0 percent. The report also indicates that Black workers were disproportionately in unions relative to their share in the overall workforce. In 2012, 13.3 percent of all union members in the United States were Black; Blacks comprised 11.4 percent of the overall workforce in the United States.

Annual Report: Black Employment and Unemployment in 2012
Annual Report: Black Employment and Unemployment in 2012February 2013, by Steven Pitts
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During 2012, the economy grew by approximately 1.9 million jobs.  This growth was fairly steady throughout the year: in eight months, the monthly increase ranged between 112,000 and 196,000.  Despite this slow but steady increase in non-farm payroll employment, there were minimal changes in the unemployment rate and employment-population ratio for Black workers during the year. However, white workers fared better than Black workers in 2012.

Annual Report: Black Employment and Unemployment in 2011
Annual Report: Black Employment and Unemployment in 2011January 2012, by Steven Pitts
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» Press Release
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A year-in-review of the Monthly Black Worker Report, “Annual Report: Black Employment and Unemployment in 2011” finds that last year’s unemployment rates for Black workers remained in the 15 to 16 percent range, while unemployment for the rest of the workforce dropped below 9 percent. The report is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey, and breaks out unemployment rates by race, gender and age groups in 2011.

Black Workers and the Public Sector
The State of Black Workers before the Great RecessionApril 2011, by Steven Pitts
» Research Brief PDF
» Press Coverage

The standoff in Wisconsin highlights the fiscal crisis facing state and local governments across the country. Required by law to balance their budgets, politicians in state legislatures, school boards, and city councils are faced with the choices of cutting public services and laying off workers, raising revenue, or some combination of the two. They are deciding these choices in an economic context where the Great Recession caused the deficits and any deficit-reduction option exerts a drag on the recovery. Since January 2009, state and local governments have laid off 429,000 workers. As governments contemplate additional layoffs, it is important to note that few commentators have examined the racial implications of this reduction in government employment.

The End of the Recession? How Blacks Might Fare in the Jobless Recovery
The State of Black Workers before the Great Recession October 2010, by Sylvia Allegretto and Steven Pitts
» Research Brief PDF

Recently, there have been seemingly contradictory announcements concerning the economy.   In September another 95,000 jobs were shed as the unemployment rate remained at 9.6%. Unemployment has been at least 9.5% for well over a year now. About the same time it was announced that the recession, which began in December 2007, had actually ended in June of last year—thus we are several months into the second year of recovery. This brief provides some explanation and context in light of economy recovery amidst continued job losses and stubbornly high unemployment.

The State of Black Workers before the Great Recession
The State of Black Workers before the Great Recession July 2010, by Sylvia Allegretto and Steven Pitts
» Research Brief PDF

Congress has debated various policy measures aimed to restore the economy to its pre-recession track. However, simply ending the recession will not solve the job crisis within the Black community. Many analysts have noted that labor market distress—when properly calculated—among Black workers has been at catastrophic levels for decades. In the tough labor market of today, about one out of every four Black workers is underemployed, but even in good times the ratio was one in seven. Labor markets prior to December 2007 did not serve the Black community well; to the contrary, racial inequality in labor market outcomes was a central feature. This research brief documents aspects of racial inequality before the Great Recession.

Reducing Tensions Concerning Immigration and Employment
Reducing Tensions Concerning Immigration and Employment
A two-year project funded by the Ford Foundation to develop a set of popular education curricula aimed at building stronger working relationships between African American and Latina/o immigrant workers on issues of employment and immigration. The project will build the capacity of unions and community-based workers centers to develop and implement strategies for achieving common goals across race, nationality and migration status. This will be achieved by creating popular education modules in Spanish and English and conducting train-the-trainer workshops in coordination with unions and workers centers across the country. The project also includes technical assistance for two local Bay Area unions who have committed to building their power by developing closer ties between their Latino/a immigrant and African American members.

Beyond the Mountaintop: King’s Prescription for Poverty
Black Economists Mark the 40th Anniversary of the Assassination

Beyond the Mountaintop: King's Prescription for Poverty April 2008, by Steven C. Pitts and William Spriggs
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Beyond the Mountaintop: King’s Prescription for Poverty, by Steven Pitts of UC Berkeley and William Spriggs of Howard University, is a policy brief that analyzes African Americans’ economic progress over the last 40 years and uses Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of economic justice as the basis for policy recommendations to dramatically reduce poverty.

2007 Conference on Job Quality and Black Workers
Job Quality ConferenceOn December 8, 2007, over 40 community activists, policy advocates, and academics from around the country gathered to discuss the latest Labor Center research on job quality and Black workers. In addition to a presentation from Steven Pitts, attendees heard about strategies to improve job quality from Faith Culbreath, president of SEIU SOULA 2006 (Los Angeles); Rael Silva, organizer with Young Workers United (San Francisco); Susan Washington, assistant to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney (Washington, DC); and Amisha Patel, coordinator, Grassroots Collaborative (Chicago). Participants left the convening energized and committed to exploring ways to integrate the need for quality jobs with their daily work.
» Conference Powerpoint Presentation by Steven Pitts PDF

Black Workers in Bay Area 2007 Job Quality and Black Workers: An Examination of the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York
August 2007, by Steven C. Pitts
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» Executive Summary PDF
» Press Release PDF
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This study that finds that more than half of U.S. Black workers earn low wages and lack advancement options. The study also explores how new global economic realities are having an impact on future employment prospects for Black workers.

Organize ... to Improve the Quality of Jobs in the Black Community Improve the Quality of Jobs in the Black Community
May 2004, by Steven C. Pitts
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This report documents the disproportionate number of Blacks holding low-wage, dead-end jobs, and assesses responses to this crisis from activist organizations nationwide. The author reviews the wide range of activities of Black-oriented non-profits, generally, and the geared towards work and employment issues, specifically. The author notes the lack of programs directly targeting the transformation of bad jobs, and discusses reasons for this state of affairs. The report weighs the effectiveness of race-based organizing, and discusses collective action strategies to combat the problem of bad jobs.

Research Project on Community-Based Organizing Among Black Workers: One way to address the crisis facing Black workers is to deepen the quality of organizing in the Black community around issues of work-life. Work-life issues reflect the varied experiences in the arena of employment including, job access, skill development, labor market outcomes (such as wages, hours, and tenure) and worker rights on the job. While recent years have seen a marked increase in organizing among immigrant workers by both unions and community-based organizations around work-life issues, it is not clear that there has been a similar upsurge among Black workers. This one-year project seeks to document and analyze existing activism around issues of work in the Black community and to provide research that supports and expands organizing in African American communities around jobs, job quality, and job access.

On September 8, 2003 Bill Fletcher Jr., president of TransAfrica Forum and a former education director of the AFL-CIO, shared with Bay Area unionists his analysis of a crisis facing Black America, as well as ideas on how to better organize Black workers.

» Read a report of this event

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