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Center for Labor Research and Education


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UC Berkeley Labor Studies

UC Berkeley Labor Studies

NEW: Spring 2019 Course Offerings:

Introduction to Labor Studies: Race, Class, Gender and Economic Justice

Public Policy 190-005: Special topics
Course number: 18009
Schedule: Tuesday & Thursday, 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m
Location: 155 Kroeber Hall

» Class flyer PDF

This course provides a broad, inter-disciplinary 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 US workforce, such as wage theft, temporary and contingent employment, corporate restructuring, the impact of technology, 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 2018 Course Offerings:

Field Studies in Labor and Community Organizing

Public Policy 290-025: Field Studies
Course number: 15477
Schedule: Monday, 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Location: Conference room, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) at 2521 Channing Way (near Telegraph Ave.)

This field studies course is designed for undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in exploring their passion for social and economic justice while practicing new organizing and research skills. Students can earn 1 – 3 academic credits based on the number of hours spent in the field with a union or community organization that promotes the interests of working families in the Bay Area. Classroom-based skills development and guided reflection 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. In order to facilitate the most effective placement, students planning to enroll must fill out an application available at: by August 22, 2018.

Past field studies projects have included:

  • A campaign for immigrant casino workers to win living wages and health insurance
  • Outreach and education to community members in the Fruitvale District about Oakland’s minimum wage and paid sick day benefits
  • A campaign organized by local child care teachers, directors, providers, parents, and organizations to secure more investment in the child care system
  • Recruiting and retaining low-wage immigrant restaurant workers into job training programs, and support the advancement of Know Your Rights workplace justice campaigns

And more!

Contemporary Labor Issues: Challenges and Innovation

Public Policy 290-008: Graduate Seminar
Course number: 15462
Schedule: Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
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 labor and economic justice issues in depth, 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, responsible technology development, and immigration insecurities. 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 solutions.


For more information about classes and the Labor Studies program, please contact Alicia Flores at