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Labor Center Year in Review: A Critical Response for California

Labor Center Year in Review: A Critical Response for California
Photo credit: Annette Bernhardt, CC BY-SA 2.0

As you know, the context in which we are all working has changed this year. Along with our partners, we shifted to respond quickly and strategically to defend and strengthen state and federal policies that support working families, low-wage workers, and communities of color. Below we have highlighted some of our key accomplishments.

Please help us continue to work on behalf of working people by supporting the Labor Center today.

Thank you for your continued support, and we look forward to working together in 2018 towards an economy that works for all.

Ken Jacobs
Chair, Labor Center

UC Berkeley Labor Center Year in Review: A Critical Response for California in 2017

California’s Health Care Expansion: We moved quickly to highlight the health and economic impacts that repeal of the Affordable Care Act and federal Medicaid cuts would have on California. Our research has been featured on billboards throughout the Central Valley, shared at ACA “town halls” in congressional districts, referenced on the U.S. Senate floor, and cited extensively by the media. We provided testimony to an Assembly committee examining how California can move toward universal coverage in the state, and we are conducting research on potential policies to achieve that goal.

California and the Future of Work: The Labor Center received national media coverage for a major new report that found that California’s progressive policy model has raised wages, increased health care coverage, and reduced carbon emissions—all without slowing economic growth or hurting employment. Earlier in the year we released an important contribution to the gig economy debates with our report, What Do We Know About Gig Work in California? We also released an analysis of how low wages are leading to a crisis in California’s homecare industry, a paper reviewing the evidence on the effects of low wages and turnover on airport safety and security, and a report documenting wages and working conditions in emergency medical services. Finally, we have just launched a collaborative project with Working Partnerships USA focused on the impact of new technology on work; stay tuned in 2018!

Transition to a Clean Energy Economy: Our climate team is working with environmental and worker groups on research and policy development to support the creation of good jobs in the context of California’s cutting-edge climate policies. Our 2017 reports include studies of the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire, two low-income regions that have been positively impacted by climate policy; an analysis of the significant inclusion of workers from disadvantaged communities in the construction of large renewable energy plants; and an assessment of the economic development potential of off-shore wind. We also launched our new curriculum for unions on climate change and climate policy.

Retirement Security: In December, we released a new study estimating the combined impact of California’s $15 minimum wage policy and the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program on low-income workers’ retirement incomes. In the spring, as the new Congress moved to rescind safe harbor regulations for Secure Choice type plans, our rapid response policy brief addressed the effect that repeal would have on workers in California and four other states pursuing such policies. We also published an LA Times op-ed and a journal article arguing that traditional pensions offer more secure retirement income than cost-equivalent 401(k)s for teachers, especially in California.

Black Worker Program: For several years, we have incubated the National Black Worker Center Project; we continue to provide technical assistance to the Bay Area Black Worker Center as it develops its capacity to address some of the re-entry issues facing the formerly incarcerated in Alameda County. The center’s primary project is to push for implementation of the county’s “Alameda County Re-Entry and Harder to Employ Hiring Program.” In the fall, our C.L. Dellums African American Leadership School focused on issues facing Black workers in Contra Costa County; this work will form the basis of a report on Black workers in Contra Costa County to be released in the spring of 2018.

New! Labor Studies Program for Cal Students: The Labor Center ramped up its campus programming this year. We drew idealistic, talented youth to participate in paid internships in unions and community organizations through our annual Labor Summer Internship Program. In the fall, we harnessed student interest in labor issues with semester-long internships for academic credit through a brand-new labor field studies class—the only one of its kind at UC Berkeley. Next semester, we will be offering two new courses: one for undergraduates, an introduction to Labor Studies, and one for graduate students on labor policy. These classes and other initiatives will be core components of our new and growing Labor Studies Program at Cal.

More Leadership and Organizing: Every year we offer an array of classes and leadership development schools to build the capacity of unions and community organizations. Our Latino Leadership Institute is training local leaders on civic engagement in the Monterey area and the Central Valley, and we are already planning to host the Summer Institute on Union Women conference in 2018, with an emphasis on immigrant women who are organizing in workplaces that are not traditionally unionized.