Future of Work & Workers
Labor Center Leadership
Area of Expertise
Labor market research
New technologies and low-wage work
Living wage and labor standards policies
Enforcement of employment and labor laws
The gig economy
Immigrants and work
Low-wage service industries
Annette Bernhardt (she/her) is director of the Technology and Work program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center, and a senior researcher at the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. She recently was visiting professor in the UC Berkeley Sociology Department, as well as a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Previously she was policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project, where she coordinated policy analysis and research on living wage standards, enforcement of workers’ rights, and accountable development. A leading scholar of low-wage work, Dr. Bernhardt has helped develop and analyze innovative policy responses to economic restructuring in the United States.
She was one of the principal investigators of the landmark study Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers, which documented high rates of minimum wage, overtime, and other workplace violations in the low-wage labor market. She has also been a leader in collaborating with immigrant worker centers and unions to develop innovative models of community-based research. Her current research focuses on domestic outsourcing, the gig economy, and the impact of new technologies on low-wage work. Dr. Bernhardt’s books include the co-edited The Gloves-Off Economy: Workplace Standards at the Bottom of America’s Labor Market. She has published widely in journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review, and the Journal of Labor Economics, among others. Dr. Bernhardt received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1993.
This month the U.S. Department of Labor released its employment projections for the next decade. We analyzed the job quality of the occupations projected to grow the most during this period, focusing specifically on low-wage jobs.
Estimated Characteristics and Employment of Essential Workers in California, from May 2020 to June 2021
This fact sheet estimates the characteristics and employment numbers of workers in essential industries in California over the period from May 2020 to June 2021
This data tool tracks the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers in California, and how the state is recovering from these effects. The pandemic left millions of Californians out of work, and while the economy has begun to recover in recent months, some workers continue to struggle. This resource will be updated periodically, as new data becomes available, to allow users to monitor the progress of labor markets in the state.
The Labor Center understands that workers are whole human beings whose lives go beyond their workplace and whose work lives are deeply affected by what happens in their communities. When Black people suffer racist attacks in their communities—whether the attacks come in the form of police and extrajudicial violence, or underfunded public education, or exposure to environmental degradation, or mass incarceration—these are workers’ rights issues.
Instead, policymakers should focus on traditional approaches that will boost the economy as a whole. Pandemic responses should aim to support businesses and workers—both salaried and non-salaried—alike, addressing inequality through a focus on its root causes and industry-level trends. This last point was captured by Annette Bernhardt, a labor economist at U.C. Berkeley, who found little evidence of “a strong, unambiguous shift toward nonstandard or contingent forms of work—especially in contrast to the dramatic increase in wage inequality.”
“BLS statistics are just not picking up workers who do independent contracting on the side, for supplemental income in addition to a W-2 job,” says University of California economist Annette Bernhardt PhD., author of “The Gloves-off Economy.” “This is a real significant challenge to understanding what’s going on in the labor market.”
Much of the automation-driven jobs losses that basic income seeks to remedy may still be decades, if not generations away. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that work will remain the primary source of income for workers and families now and for the foreseeable future. Good jobs still matter.
Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on Harris v. Quinn may seem like a narrow decision on the technical details of union dues. In fact, it lays bare one of the fundamental injustices to workers’ rights in the U.S., and a looming policy failure as the country struggles to care for a rapidly aging population.