The Labor Center’s research on labor standards focuses on minimum wage and living wage policies, and their effects on employment, workers, firms, and the public.
Research & Publications
A list of California city and county ordinances, proclamations, mayoral directives, and orders that expand labor standards for workers affected by the pandemic, such as paid sick leave, health care, worker retention/right of return, and policies that lift workers’ voices in firm, industry, and government responses to the pandemic.
Across the country, cities and counties have become laboratories of policy innovation on labor standards. Before 2012, only five localities had minimum wage laws; currently, 56 counties and cities do. To help inform policymakers and other stakeholders, the UC Berkeley Labor Center is maintaining an up-to-date inventory of these laws, with details on wage levels, scheduled increases, and other law details, as well as links to the ordinances.
Low wages and exploitative practices in the resident construction industry cause profound hardship for workers and their families. It also costs the public. This analysis finds almost half of families of construction workers in California are enrolled in a safety net program at an annual cost of over $3 billion. By comparison, just over a third of all California workers have a family member enrolled in one or more safety net program.
The study, by Ken Jacobs and Kuochih Huang of the UC Berkeley Labor Center, finds that almost half of the families of construction workers in California are enrolled in a safety net program at an annual cost of over $3 billion in public funds. By comparison, just over a third of all California workers have a family member enrolled in one or more safety net programs.
The ultimate impact AB 257 will have on the state budget will depend on to-be-made decisions by the council. But even with a small increase in fast-food workers’ wages resulting from the bill, the net fiscal effect is likely to be positive for the state.
This data brief estimates the public cost to Delaware and the federal government from the use of safety net programs among low-wage working families who would be directly affected by an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. We find that just over half of these Delaware families (51%) are enrolled in at least one safety net program, at an annual cost of $700 million.
This data brief estimates the public cost to Georgia and the federal government from the use of safety net programs by low-wage working families who would be directly affected by an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. We find that just over half of these Georgia families (51%) are enrolled in at least one safety net program, at an annual cost of $4.7 billion.
Study: Low Georgia Wages Cost Taxpayers $4.7 billion. Families of more than half of Georgia workers who would receive pay increases under a $15 minimum wage are enrolled in a public safety net program.
Prop 22 carves out an exception from state labor law for app-based transportation and delivery gig companies, including Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart, allowing the companies to continue to classify their workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Labor Center chair Ken Jacobs and economics professor Michael Reich have produced several papers that examine the implications of Prop 22 compared to employee status for drivers, consumers, taxpayers, and the companies.
The Effects of Proposition 22 on Driver Earnings: Response to a Lyft-Funded Report by Dr. Christopher Thornberg
Thornberg over-estimates driver gross earnings (before expenses) based on data that is not representative of drivers in California. He also underestimates driver costs. In doing so, he significantly overstates what drivers earn on net now, and would earn under Proposition 22.
The companies have a choice over how they adjust to comply with California’s laws protecting workers—or if they choose to fight those laws with a ballot initiative that would take pay standards back seventy years.
This paper analyzes the prospective impact of that proposal in the four North Bay counties—Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano.
Perhaps the most important effect of a strong labor movement is the countervailing force it poses to the corporate sector in the political and public policy arenas. This effect is clearly visible in California. With the support and backing of labor, California has passed ambitious laws promoting the rights of workers—union and nonunion alike—as well as policies advancing the common good broadly.
At the Wage Floor: Covering Homecare and Early Care and Education Workers in the New Generation of Minimum Wage Laws
These workers provide a critical (but too often unrecognized) public good; as such, we argue that a significant public investment is a necessary part of the solution, both to deliver minimum wage increases to these workers and to cover the significant unmet need for care.
In order to have meaningful retirement security, America’s low-wage workers don’t just need an effective way to save—they also need a raise. The State of California is leading the way by providing both.
California’s $15 Minimum Wage and Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program Can Boost Young Low-Income Workers’ Retirement Incomes by 50%
This study examines the separate and combined impacts of the $15 minimum wage policy and Secure Choice on the retirement income of California workers in the bottom half of the income distribution.
One cartoon stood out during the remembrances of economist Uwe Reinhardt, who passed away last week. The cartoon was striking to me because it also describes the difference between California’s progressive economic vision, and the vision behind the Republican tax plan passed this week by the House.
Between 2011 and 2016, California enacted a set of 51 policy measures addressing workers’ rights, environmental issues, safety net programs, taxation, and infrastructure and housing. Critics predicted that these policies would reduce employment and slow economic growth, while supporters argued that they would raise wages for low-wage workers, increase access to health insurance, lower wage inequality, and reduce carbon emissions. This paper assesses some of these claims and prognoses.
RELEASE: California is Working: New study finds progressive policies improving Californians’ lives without holding back jobs and the economy
Research from the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education measuring the impacts of numerous progressive California policies enacted over the last six years finds no negative effects on employment and economic growth.