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Center for Labor Research and Education


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Labor Studies at Cal

  • Why Labor Studies?

    Labor Studies at Cal invites students to explore the role of the U.S. labor movement in the fight for social and economic justice, and its intersection with movements addressing racial, immigrant and gender justice.

    We offer internships for academic credit during the school year, and paid summer internships through our Labor Summer Program. Our student programming, classes and internships cover topics such as income inequality, social movements, race and ethnicity dynamics in the workplace, immigration reform, wage theft, health care, the global economy, women and gender inequities, the future of work, green jobs, and retirement security.


    NEW: Spring 2020 Class

    Labor Studies at CAL Spring 2020 PDF

    Public Policy 190 – 005 (4) Special Topics in Public Policy
    Course Number: 29969
    Schedule: Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30 – 11:00 AM
    Location: Davis 534

    Topic: Work, Justice and the Labor Movement

    Instructor: Prof. Anibel Ferus-Comelo

    This course provides a broad, interdisciplinary overview of the U.S. labor movement in the fight for social and economic justice. It will introduce students to critiques of capitalism and the power dynamics inherent in paid work, while considering why and how workers form unions in response. One of the primary objectives of this course is to develop a theoretical and practical understanding of contemporary workers’ experiences in the U.S. shaped by race, class, gender, sexuality, immigration status, language, religion, and other social constructs. There will be a special comparative focus on the role of structures and the space for agency and mobilization in the Latinx, Black, and Asian American communities. The course will cover current challenges facing the U.S. workforce, such as wage theft, temporary and contingent employment, corporate restructuring, the impact of technology, and globalization. Despite tremendous political and legal obstacles, millennials are organizing to build power that is transforming their communities. In 2017, 76 percent of the increase in union membership was workers under 35. Disruptive innovations in workers’ rights campaigns such as the Fight for $15 and teachers’ walk-outs have led a resurgence of bargaining for the common good. The course will integrate guest speakers, films, current news, blogs, and community engagement to deepen students’ appreciation of the role of unions and workers’ centers in promoting intersectional equity and justice.


    Fall 2019 Course Offerings

    » Labor Studies at CAL Fall 2019 PDF

    Public Policy 190
    Course number: 17505
    Schedule: Monday, 2:30 – 3:30 PM
    Location: Conference room, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) at 2521 Channing Way (near Telegraph Ave.)

    This field study course is designed for undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in social and economic justice, and seek to earn academic credit while gaining experience in organizing. Building upon the Labor Center’s popular Labor Summer program, it allows students to apply existing organizing skills or acquire new knowledge in community and labor organizations. Once enrolled, students will be matched with our community partners that promote the interests of working families in the Bay Area. The number of course credits for this class is based on the number of hours spent in the field. Classroom-based guided reflection, skills development, career information, and engagement with current debates will complement the fieldwork. This experience can open the door to life-long careers as organizers, researchers, policy analysts, political lobbyists, communication specialists and influential leaders in the labor movement.


    Public Policy 290
    Course number: 15281
    Schedule: Wednesday, 9:30 – 11:30 AM
    Location: Conference room, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) at 2521 Channing Way (near Telegraph Ave.)

    This applied research and project-based seminar offers students the opportunity to study economic justice issues, while developing and honing research skills that can shape campaigns to improve the lives of working families. In partnership with local labor unions and worker organizations, we will address priority questions that have emerged in ongoing organizing and advocacy campaigns. Students will work hands-on with existing data sets or engage in original data collection, with training and guidance in the application of data science tools to support workers’ interests in the Bay Area. The specific campaigns, to be identified by our community partners, are likely to address the affordable housing crisis, future of work and workers, and immigration. The class will culminate in presentations of findings, analyses, and policy recommendations to key community stakeholders and policymakers. Through a combination of lectures, key readings, and active participation in a “live” research initiative, students will develop an understanding of the current challenges that the labor movement in California faces and contribute to innovative policy advocacy and political action.


    Other Labor and Employment Related Courses

    Click here for a list of labor & employment related courses on the IRLE website:

    Fall Semester 2019 – PH 290
    Global Occupational Health and Safety
    Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 to 11:00 am

    • 3 credit course
    • Instructors: Kathie Hammond & Garrett Brown
    • Guest speakers are occupational health professionals who have worked in global supply chains around
      the world
    • Students will profile and communicate with national and international NGOs working to protect the
      health and rights of workers in the global economy and have an opportunity to collaborate with them.
    • Course content:
      • Characteristics of economic globalization
      • International occupational health & safety guidelines and standards
      • Hazards & control measures for 9 specific industries in various countries, including case studies
    • Learning objectives:
      • Develop hazard assessment skills
      • Understand the “big picture” challenges to protecting worker and community health in the
        context of economic, political, social and technical characteristics of developing countries
      • Learn about effective strategies for improving workplace health and safety
      • Have the opportunity to work with organizations needing information, research, technical
        assistance and possible future internships

    More information available from

    Fall Semester 2019 – FILM & Media 140
    The Image of Labor: Work, Film, Media, Resistance!
    Dwinelle Hall 188, UC Berkeley
    Mondays & Wednesdays, 1:00-2:30 pm; Screenings on Tuesdays, 5:00-7:00 pm

    Film as a mass medium emerged simultaneously with mass industrialization, making
    cinema the first art form of the industrial age. Since those beginnings, the representation
    of the worker and labor struggles against exploitation and for decent working conditions
    has been deeply intertwined with the history of cinema. From the early silent classics
    such as Lang’s Metropolis and Chaplin’s Modern Times to acclaimed films today
    including Alfonso Cuaròn’s Roma and Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, filmmakers all
    over the world have attempted to tell the stories of the lives and struggles of working
    people. At the same time, cinema has made visible human labor, showing the
    dynamism, and poetry of work as a source of meaning, creativity and personal

    In this course we will look at a range of film and media works from classical cinema to
    today’s new media platforms, in a range of genres from popular dramatic fiction and
    documentary film to activist and experimental media. By focusing on the relationship
    between form and content in these politically charged works, we explore how film and
    media have shaped the ways we understand the meaning of work in modern life and
    how labor struggles have defined social relations including race, class and gender.
    In addition to required viewing, reading and class discussion, students will create an
    image-based research project that engages contemporary issues around labor in their
    own lives and communities.

    For more information, please contact: Prof. Jeffrey Skoller at

  • UC Berkeley Labor Summer Internship Program

    The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education (Labor Center) and co-sponsor San Francisco Central Labor Council are offering students an opportunity to spend their summer learning about social and economic justice and reflecting on the intersections of race, class, and gender and immigration in the labor movement. Labor Summer is a full-time, PAID, intensive eight-week educational internship program. Students learn from and work with labor and community organizations in Northern and Central California, applying their skills in real-world settings on issues vital to the state’s working people.

    Why apply to the Labor Summer Internship Program?

    Many people in California face a host of work-related challenges such as low wages, unpredictable scheduling, wage theft, discrimination, health and safety violations, and increasing living expenses. In the Labor Summer program, students hone their skills alongside people working for positive change to address these challenges. By interning with labor and community organizations, students can learn through service how the labor movement is addressing important issues facing working-class immigrants, women, and people of color.

    How it works

    The UC Berkeley Labor Center offers PAID internships to graduate and undergraduate students, who learn how to organize and do research to support social and economic justice for workers in California. The program has two tracks: “Learn Organizing Skills” and “Applied Research and Policy.”

    • Interns begin with a week-long orientation from June 18 to 22 at the Labor Center. The orientation provides an intensive training on the basics of the U.S. labor movement, with a special focus on Northern California labor issues. The orientation also covers an introduction to the students’ host sites.
    • Halfway through the orientation the tracks diverge, with separate two-day trainings for each track.
    • Interns are hosted by a union or community-based organization for seven weeks, where they are exposed to the intricacies and inner workings of a campaign.
    • Over the course of the seven-week internship, students return as a group to the Labor Center for three additional day-long sessions during which they reflect on their experiences in the field and receive additional skills-building training.
    • Interns receive guidance from both an off-site mentor who is familiar with the Labor Summer program and has years of social justice experience as well as a supervisor at their site who is engaged in a workplace or community campaign.
    • The program concludes with a graduation ceremony at which interns share their experiences and discuss how the program affected them.
    • Students are required to produce an 8- to 10-page final report and a final evaluation of the program.

    For more information and to apply, please visit:


    Other Internship Opportunities

    Academic Year Internships
    New York Union Semester

    Summer Internships
    AFL-CIO Law Student Summer
    AFSCME Union Scholars Program
    Center for Third World Organizing Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program (MAAP)
    Kalmanovitz Initiative Summer Organizing Internship (KI SOI)
    Midwest Academy Community Organizing Internship
    Occupational Health Internship Program
    Peggy Browning Fund Summer Fellowships for Law Students
    Seeding Change Fellowship
    Solidarity Center Summer Internships
    Student Action with Farmworkers
    Students for Economic Justice Summer Fellowship
    UCLA Labor Center Dream Summer Program
    UCLA Labor Summer Research Internship
    UNITE HERE Organizing Beyond Borders

  • Labor Studies Program Staff

    Anibel Ferus-Comelo, Director of Student Programming
    Anibel Ferus-Comelo draws upon over 20 years of community-engaged research and teaching to her joint appointment at the Center for Labor Research and Education and the Goldman School of Public Policy. She directs the Labor Studies program at UC Berkeley through courses, internships, and collaborative research initiatives. Her own scholarship has focused on the implications of corporate restructuring for workers and labor organization at different nodes of global production networks in the world’s most lucrative industries. She has published her work for mixed audiences of scholars and practitioners on topics such as: migration and precarious employment, women workers in high tech manufacturing, contingent employment in tourism, the Indian labor movement, and enforcement of labor standards in the mobile phone industry. Before coming to Cal, Dr. Ferus-Comelo worked as a consultant researcher and policy analyst on labor and corporate accountability for international agencies, including the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. She began her teaching career in labor and Asian American studies at UCLA, and has taught globalization and development, gender studies, and the political economy of India over twelve years. Prior to that, she taught for five years on a joint union-university Certificate in Global Labor Studies in the U.K. She has also trained organizers through the Organizing Academy of the British Trades Union Congress. Anibel earned her Ph.D. in Economic Geography from Queen Mary, University of London in 2005, and has a B.A. and M.A. in Sociology.

    Alicia Flores, Program Coordinator
    Alicia Flores is a program coordinator for the Labor Center’s leadership development and labor education programs. Alicia manages the Labor Summer Internship Program, and organizes student and community engagement programs with a focus on student leadership development. She coordinates for-credit labor related internships at UC Berkeley through field studies courses, cultivates partnerships with student and labor groups, and develops organizing and labor education workshops for students and community members during the academic year. Alicia is also the co-chair of the United Association for Labor Education’s (UALE) Young Worker and Activist working group, which aims to support young workers and educators in the field of labor education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in social services and a minor in women and gender studies from UC Davis. Alicia began her experience working with students, popular education, and workshop facilitation in high school and college, through several peer education programs focused on domestic violence and reproductive rights. She has also worked at the Women’s Resources and Research Center at UC Davis developing programs on intersectional identities, gender equity, and workshop facilitation skills. She is an alumna of the 2013 Labor Summer cohort, where she interned with SEIU Local 1000 in Sacramento. She is now an active member in her union, Teamsters Local 2010. Alicia grew up in the Bay Area and enjoys exploring the outdoors, cooking spicy food, and cat videos.

    For more information about the program, please contact Alicia Flores at