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.
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 U.S. 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 led a multi-campus program providing research and technical assistance to unions, consumer stakeholders, and policymakers 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, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and National Public Radio.
Massachusetts Uber/Lyft Ballot Proposition Would Create Subminimum Wage: Drivers Could Earn as Little as $4.82 an Hour
Uber and Lyft, along with a group of delivery network companies, have filed a ballot proposition in Massachusetts to create a separate set of labor standards for their drivers. After considering multiple loopholes, we find that the majority of Massachusetts drivers could earn as little as the equivalent of a $4.82 wage, while the minority of drivers who qualify for a health care stipend could earn the equivalent of just $6.75 per hour.
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.
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.
The rise to a $15 hourly wage has had a “real, measurable effect on workers’ pay in the state,” said Ken Jacobs. Still, “costs have continued to rise.”
The diffuse nature of gig work makes it hard for workers to take collective action for better wages. But strikes and protests have provided PR benefits and caught the attention of policymakers, says Ken Jacobs.
Ken Jacobs said the sympathy strike might well be a commentary on the overall state of labor relations at Kaiser right now.
Ken Jacobs noted that Kaiser serves 912,000 workers insured through 454 union trusts, and all those members care deeply about how Kaiser treats its unionized workforce.
“Both child and elder care [are] essential if we want to have any kind of stability in the workforce given demand,” Ken Jacobs said. “It’s going to be very important in order to enable large numbers of particularly women to come back and participate in the workforce.”
When workers see others go on strike, that can have a snowball effect, said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley Labor Center.
Ken Jacobs helps explain what two-tier contracts are and why they are bad for worker solidarity.
“Is it strong enough to build the momentum to win some part of labor law reform that would allow for greater success in organizing?” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. “That’s the real question.”
The company is employing classic tactics, said Ken Jacobs, chair of the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Berkeley.
“They’re put through a gantlet by employers who make all sorts of threats,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education. Growers will sometimes fire organizers, even though that’s illegal; penalties are modest and rarely enforced.