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Center for Labor Research and Education

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Holiday Greetings from the UC Berkeley Labor Center!

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In these challenging times, we believe a robust labor movement will be critical to building a sustainable, inclusive democracy and economy that works for all. This year, we redoubled our efforts to serve as a bridge between the university, worker organizations, and the public through conducting cutting-edge research and policy analysis, training a diverse new generation of leaders, and educating and engaging students on worker issues.

Please join us in making an impact on behalf of working people by supporting the Labor Center today.

Thank you for your continued support. May 2020 bring good news for workers in California, the nation, and the world.

Ken Jacobs
Chair, UC Berkeley Labor Center

 

 


 

2019 Research Highlights

Technology and the Future of Workers
Low-Wage Work in California
Black Worker Program
California’s Health Care Expansion
Retirement Security
Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy
Worker Leadership and Organizing
High-Road Training Partnerships
Labor Studies Program for Cal Students

 


Technology and the Future of Workers


In 2019 we continued to serve as a leading source of research and policy analysis on the future of work and workers. We released the second of five industry studies on the impact of new technologies on workers: The Future of Warehouse Work: Technological Change in the U.S. Logistics Industry. Our first study on the trucking industry, Driverless? Autonomous Trucks and the Future of the American Worker, continues to receive extensive press and deeply informed an analysis on the future of the trucking industry conducted by the U.S. GAO. Early next year we will release the remaining studies on the retail, food delivery, and health care industries. In 2019 we also conducted in-depth policy analyses relevant to technology and work, including taxation, job creation, education and training, collective bargaining, data and algorithms, innovation strategies, and worker displacement. We have provided technical assistance to a wide range of stakeholders including unions, workers centers, state and local policymakers, and tech industry representatives, and we presented at the inaugural meeting of the California Future of Work Commission.
 


Low-Wage Work in California


In 2019 we have focused on projects related to gig work. As AB5 was being discussed in Sacramento, we released a fact sheet on misclassification in California, and after it was passed, a report estimating the share of workers covered under the new law. When Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash announced a ballot measure to overturn AB5, we provided analysis in a widely-read blog post showing that the initiative would guarantee workers only the equivalent of $5.64 an hour. We continued our collaborative analysis of tax data with the California Franchise Tax Board and the California Policy Lab to measure independent contracting and on-demand platform work, and presented our research to the Franchise Tax Board. Our team also produced industry-specific research, such as analyses of the economic impacts of the child care industry in California and of increasing workers’ wages at SFO.
 


Black Worker Program


Our Black Worker Program addresses the Black jobs crisis. In 2019, we continued to provide technical assistance to the National Black Worker Center Project and successfully concluded another session of the C.L. Dellums African American Leadership School with a focus on the growing Black population in East Contra Costa County. We are also completing an analysis of the workforce demographics in the construction industry in the East Bay.

 


California’s Health Care Expansion


Our research on the uninsured in California and potential state solutions was frequently cited as California adopted budget actions to expand health coverage and improve affordability. We published a report, testified in the legislature, and provided technical assistance to stakeholders and policymakers on expanding Medi-Cal to undocumented adults. Our analysis of the Trump Administration’s proposed “public charge” rule was used in a case led by Attorney General Becerra seeking to block implementation of the rule. We launched a series of blog posts on the impact of high health care costs on California workers with job-based coverage, and have contributed to public discussions about proposals for Medicare for All.

 


Retirement Security


Our work has continued to inform policy debates on the retirement crisis, aging, and pensions. Our January 2019 report on teacher turnover and pension benefits in six states—Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas—showed that switching to 401(k) plans would reduce teachers’ retirement incomes and increase turnover. Our July brief showing that half of California private-sector workers lack retirement assets, released to support the launch of the CalSavers retirement savings program, received broad media coverage. Director Nari Rhee co-authored a National Institute on Retirement Security brief on intra-generational financial inequality. Her analyses of senior poverty were featured on KQED Forum, Marketplace, and the New York Times. Dr. Rhee serves on the California Master Plan on Aging and provides technical assistance to CalSavers.

 


Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy


The Green Economy Program addresses workforce and equity issues related to California’s climate legislation and regulations, focusing not just on the quantity of jobs but also job quality and access for disadvantaged workers. We provide labor, equity, and environmental justice organizations, state agencies, and policymakers with technical assistance for building a “social contract” to transition to a low-carbon economy while improving conditions for workers and low-income communities. In 2019 highlights included providing research and technical assistance to the California Labor Agency on workforce policy for climate legislation and a report on how truck driver misclassification creates obstacles to meeting the state’s climate goals.

 


Worker Leadership and Organizing


The Leadership Development Program helps worker and community organizations conduct their work more strategically. Classes in 2019 included our Strategic Campaigns Workshop; Strategic Research Workshop; a Lead Organizer Institute with workers from 20 different worker organizations; and a bilingual collaboration with the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council’s Academia de Liderazgo. We continued to provide ongoing technical assistance to worker and community groups. In 2019, we added a Strategic Campaigns Workshop for Educators for teachers’ unions across California. In 2020, we will offer Big and Open Negotiations led by our new Senior Policy Fellow, long-time organizer, scholar, and author Jane MacAlevy.

 


High-Road Training Partnerships


The State of California Workforce Development Board is investing heavily in collaborative (labor/management) high-road industry training partnerships in eight California industries, and has contracted with the Labor Center to support design, development, implementation, and evaluation of the program. Each partnership is different, but all are engaging both employer and worker representatives to create training programs with common goals in skill development, job quality, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and equity.

 


Labor Studies Program for Cal Students


Our Labor Studies program at UC Berkeley is growing with rising student enrollment in our labor courses. An undergraduate introduction to labor studies focusing on challenges facing the contemporary labor movement has doubled its enrollment in two years. A Field Study course on organizing offers academic credit for a 15-week part-time internship; this year we placed 30 students with 16 worker organizations for hands-on experience in member and community outreach, public education, developing social media content, and more. We also offer a graduate-level applied research course in partnership with labor organizations. This summer we placed 25 students in paid, two-month internships in unions and community organizations through our annual Labor Summer Internship Program, with plans to expand the program in 2020, when the program will celebrate its 20th anniversary.