We look at four cases of recent experiments at the local level with sectoral standards. Our cases show that sectoral standards have the potential to expand new forms of social bargaining at the state and local level through public policy in areas of the country where worker organizations are already strong.
Future of Work & Workers
Labor Center Leadership
Unions & Worker Organizations
Area of Expertise
Labor Standards Policies
Public Policy and Unions
Ken Jacobs is the chair of the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, where he has been a Labor Specialist since 2002. His areas of focus include low-wage work, labor standards policies, sectoral wage setting and health care coverage. Recent research includes analyses of California Proposition 22 and drivers earnings, worker misclassification and the effect unions on wages and benefits; prospective studies of proposed city and state minimum wage laws; the relationship between wages, turnover, security and safety at US airports; the economic benefits of care work; and the public cost of low-wage work.
Jacobs is the co-editor with Michael Reich and Miranda Dietz of “When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level,” from University of California Press. Jacobs lead a multi-campus program providing research and technical assistance to unions, consumer stakeholders and policy makers on the effects of the Affordable Care Act and measures to cover the remaining uninsured. His work has been covered in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and National Public Radio.
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 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 article, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, discusses research that used natural experiments to measure downstream effects that are clearly caused by changes in family income. There is strong evidence of a causal effect of higher net income on child development, including math and reading test scores, educational attainment, birth weight, mental health, and health in adulthood.
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.
Drivers are gearing up for a strike in support of the PRO Act. The PRO Act, now in Congress, uses the same test for determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee as the test codified in Assembly Bill 5, but this is specifically for the purposes of collective bargaining, said Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center.
“For a public sector union to not engage in politics at all is unilateral disarmament,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley Labor Center. “Unions have really been the strongest bulwark of support for electing both candidates and passing ballot propositions that are in the broader interests of working people and that support strong, good quality public services. Were unions in general to pull out of doing so, that would have real ramifications.”
Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center at Institute for Research on Labor Employment, says it’s “fairly likely” Biden’s NLRB will eventually weigh in on the gig workers’ battle with companies like Uber.
Jacobs says the share of worker households who rely on Medicaid or the Earned Income Tax Credit is likely much higher in non-unionized residential construction. “These are costs that really should be taken into account when we think about, overall, what is the cost of having labor standards on construction and on affordable housing,” he said.
Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, joined Capitol Weekly’s John Howard and Tim Foster to chat about a number of labor issues, including the ongoing uproar over at SEIU 1000 following the election of outsider candidate Richard Louis Brown; the latest fallout from Proposition 22; and The PRO Act: what is it, and how will it impact California workers if passed?
“If the companies lose, it may garner the attention of other states who are looking for what to do here,” said Ken Jacobs, the chair of the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California at Berkeley. “California isn’t the only one with lots of these suits.
Scholars say, however, that the companies’ alleged past-due bill could be material and should be of interest to investors. “We’re talking about an incredible amount of money,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley Labor Center. What’s more, he says, “The state is very likely to prevail, given what we’ve seen in preliminary rulings.”
The laws vary but generally require companies to take a hands-off approach to union organizing efforts in exchange for state permission to sell cannabis.
‘Every Year, Americans Spend $153,000,000,000 to Subsidize McDonald’s and Walmart’s Underpaid Workers’
The specific $153 billion figure and underlying claim were supported by ongoing, repeated, peer-reviewed research.
That support will be critical in an election off-year, said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley Labor Center.