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Center for Labor Research and Education


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Don Vial Center on the Green Economy

Green Jobs Rally
Photo by Susan Sachen

  • The Don Vial Center conducts research on issues of job creation, quality, access, and training in the emergent green economy. In addition, we provide research and technical assistance to state agencies, labor, and other stakeholders who are engaged in developing and implementing policy related to energy and climate change in California and nationally.

  • Donald Vial

    Donald Vial was the founding Chair of the Center for Labor Research and Education, which began operations in 1964 under the faculty leadership of IRLE (then IIR) director Lloyd Ulman. A talented administrator and a distinguished scholar in his own right, Vial presided over the Labor Center's rapid growth throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. During his tenure, IRLE and the Labor Center forged strong links among business, labor and academic groups, and it also spearheaded several innovative programs. One of these, the Minority Leadership Training Program, was a ground-breaking initiative that helped to advance minority workers into leadership position in labor unions; the program was emulated around the country.

    Donald Vial was appointed to the PUC by Governor Jerry Brown and later became the President of PUC. In 1975, Governor Brown appointed Vial as Director of the California Department of Industrial Relations. He remained on leave from the University for several years while holding this position, but maintained close contact with IRLE and the University of California. In 1978, while serving as Director of DIR, and with the support of the California legislature, he was instrumental in founding the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health.

    Donald Vial was also a well-known community leader and activist, serving over his career in a variety of public service roles. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union, Northern California Chapter; was Chair of the Advisory Committee to the State Office of the Consumer Council; and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Comprehensive Health Planning Council.

    Later in his career, Donald Vial became Chair of the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, which illustrates his foresight in understanding the important links between employment issues and environmental health, safety and stewardship.

  • Carol Zabin, Chair
    Phone: (510) 642-9176

    Betony Jones, Associate Chair
    Phone: (510) 642-0090

  • Study: California solar farms threaten desert species
    October 20, 2015 | Desert Sun

    Realizing the Promise of Solar for South Los Angeles
    September 27, 2015 | Capital & Main

    Guest Essay: We all should get on board Clean Power Plan
    September 13, 2015 | Glens Falls Post-Star

    Renewable energy requirement creates jobs, Berkeley study says
    August 28, 2015 | Los Angeles Times

    Rooftop solar battle brewing in Sacramento
    July 10, 2015 | Desert Sun

    UC Berkeley to Oversee Statewide Green Job Training Initiative
    June 23, 2013 | The Daily Californian

    UC Berkeley to Guide Job-Training Reboot for Green Economy
    June 17, 2013 | UC Berkeley NewsCenter

    UC Berkeley to help overhaul green job training for public utilities
    June 17, 2013 | San Francisco Business Times

    Vial Center selected as lead consultant on WE&T for the California Investor-Owned Utilities’ energy efficiency programs.
    June 2013 | Don Vial Center

    Going Green and Growing Jobs, the Right Way
    March 26, 2013 | The Berkeley Blog

  • In response to growing concern about climate change and its potential effects, a “green” economic sector has emerged to provide consumers with products and services ranging from solar panels to plug-in hybrid cars to environmentally certified building materials. States have adopted comprehensive climate and energy policies, the United States EPA is requiring greenhouse gas emission reductions through the Clean Power Plan, and an international agreement was reached in Paris in 2015 to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. At the local level, cities and counties are developing initiatives to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to changing climatic conditions.

    Employers, economic development planners, workforce professionals, educators, and unions want to know what these new policies and the new green economy will mean for them. For the most part, they are not yet at the table of planning and policy making on climate change and environmental legislation that will have a real impact on the labor market. Most want to be a part of the conversation, but to do so they need good research, education and technical assistance in order to be effective advocates for quality jobs, better training, and improved environmental standards.

    The opportunities are many: an occasion to train a new generation of engineers and technical workers in green technologies; an opportunity for labor, business, and workforce development and economic planners to help develop a new array of well-paying jobs with good benefits; and an opening at the ground level to make quality jobs accessible to low-income communities.

    The challenges are also clear. Green technologies will not flourish without a well-trained technical and supporting labor force. Unions will resist green policies if it means trading in old jobs that pay well for new jobs of lesser quality. Green entrepreneurs will be afraid of negotiating away their flexibility and profit margins if wage and regulatory demands are too great. Local community groups will not support “brownfields” redevelopment if they don’t see jobs made available to their residents. There is potential for a “win-win-win” strategy in this growing facet of California’s economy, but it will require careful strategies, educational efforts, and coalitions.

    Our Role

    The University of California has long offered the intellectual leadership needed to steer business, government and society towards new vistas. Its origin as a land grant university has resulted in a long history of dissemination of applied research and know-how for the public good. UC Berkeley is out in front with major initiatives related to climate change, triggered by concerns over global warming, including such research centers as the Berkeley Institute of the Environment, Energy Biosciences Institute, the Green Building Center, the California Climate Change Center, and the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability (CERES). The UC-wide Energy Institute is also run out of the Haas Business School on campus.

    Given the need for UC Berkeley to take a forward position with respect to economic and employment change that will follow in the wake of systemic adjustment to climate change, we created a center to be named after Don Vial, the founder of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education (CLRE). This center is housed at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE), a major research arm of the university.

    The activities of the Don Vial Center include the following:

    • Undertake research on the emerging green economy and climate change policy as these relate to the labor market. Develop a clearinghouse for the best national and international research findings related to climate change induced economic shifts and their employment effects.
    • Link research and dissemination on new green technologies to the workforce and education needs associated with these new technologies.
    • Provide educational forums and training sessions for labor unions, employers, nonprofits and government agencies who wish to engage the green economy and its labor market implications.
    • Provide technical assistance to those engaged in developing policy related to green economy employment. Showcase best practices that have been developed for green jobs training programs, green certification programs and green economic development programs.
    • Convene labor unions, employers, community groups, and educational institutions in order to foster workforce development partnerships to retrain workers and improve the quality of jobs in the green economy.
    • Develop joint programs and projects with other climate and economy-related research centers on the Berkeley campus, blending our expertise on employment with theirs.