Two outstanding labor organizers join the UC Berkeley Labor Center as practitioners in residence

We are pleased to welcome labor organizers Jaz Brisack and Brad Hirn to the Labor Center for a year-long residency.

About the Practitioner in Residence Program

The Practitioner in Residence Program is a year-long residency at the Labor Center for mid-career professionals looking for a time to reflect before the next chapter in their careers. The pilot program provides an opportunity for practitioners from the labor and worker justice fields to carry out research, write, and engage in strategic discussions on issues facing California workers.

About Jaz Brisack

Jaz Brisack, nationally known as a co-founder of Starbucks Workers United, will join the UC Berkeley Labor Center in April as a practitioner in residence. During their year-long residency, Brisack will work on a project to develop the “Inside Organizer School,” which they co-founded in 2018 to train non-union workers and “salts” to unionize their workplaces.

Brisack first started organizing in Mississippi, working on the UAW campaign at the Nissan factory in Canton, Miss, and volunteering as a Pinkhouse Defender at the state’s last abortion clinic. After spending one year at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, they got a job as a barista at the Elmwood Starbucks, becoming a founding member of Starbucks Workers United and helping organize the first unionized Starbucks in the United States. As the organizing director for Starbucks Workers United in upstate New York and Vermont, they subsequently worked with organizing committees at companies ranging from Ben & Jerry’s to Tesla.

At Berkeley, Brisack will be working on establishing the Inside Organizer School as an independent organization, broadening its reach to teach growing numbers of non-union workers and activists how to organize their workplaces from within. The Inside Organizer School training laid the groundwork for Starbucks Workers United, providing its replicable model that enabled the campaign to rapidly expand nationwide. It brings together organizers, activists, and workers from a variety of industries, unions, and campaigns, creating a community focused on rebuilding a vibrant, diverse, and democratic labor movement.

About Brad Hirn

Brad Hirn is an organizer who believes in building unions at work and at home. Since December 2016, he has served as a lead organizer at Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, a long-standing tenants’ rights organization in San Francisco. Through his work at HRCSF, Hirn has created a model for using disciplined structure-based organizing methods when organizing renting-class people.

Much of Hirn’s work focuses on organizing with tenants living under large, corporate landlords, including the Veritas Tenants Association (VTA), the statewide tenant union for renters living in buildings operated by one of California’s largest landlords, Veritas Investments. Together with VTA members, Hirn helped pass the landmark Union-At-Home ordinance in San Francisco, the country’s first legal framework for extending collective-bargaining rights to private-market tenants.

Hirn’s work at the Labor Center will focus on putting together his years of organizing experience into a collection of insights, arguments, and methods for building majority-based, strike-ready tenant unions that are uniquely positioned to address the affordability crisis impacting poor and working-class people across the country.