UC Berkeley will expand labor research and education programs thanks to a major state budget increase

The 2022-23 California budget allocates $13 million to University of California labor centers


BERKELEY, CA — The University of California’s labor centers and initiatives have received historic funding from the state to advance their work. California’s 2022-23 budget, signed by Gov. Gavin Newson last Thursday, includes $13 million to fund research, education, and public engagement on labor issues throughout the UC system.

The allocation, which will be ongoing in future state budgets, is the single largest budget increase to UC labor centers since their establishment in 1964, and is the largest allocation of funding for labor research and education in the nation in decades. Of these funds, $3.5 million will go to three UC Berkeley units: the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, the Labor Center, and the Labor Occupational Health Program.

This breakthrough comes at a crucial time for working people across the state, as inequality and alarming trends in working conditions and workplace technologies have intensified amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This historic investment from the state is a reflection of the growing demands for our collective work and the critical role we’ve long played in making a difference in the lives of California families,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center. “As we look ahead to rebuild an economy upended by the pandemic, we will have more resources and capacity to respond to today’s most pressing challenges.”

The increased funding will build upon UC’s decades-long labor research and education programs that have provided policymakers and labor and community leaders with timely policy-relevant research, outreach, and education affecting California’s workers, especially workers of color, immigrants and low-wage workers. Recent initiatives at UC Berkeley include analysis of the public cost of low wages; reports on the inequitable health and labor market impacts of COVID-19; a jobs and climate action plan for California; monitoring progress toward universal access to healthcare for California’s residents; and developing policies and educational programs designed to protect workers from exposure to COVID, sexual harassment on the job, and other occupational and safety hazards.

The funding will also support efforts to educate and train the next generation of labor scholars and leaders. UC Berkeley will expand labor studies programs, student internships with labor and community-based organizations throughout the state, funding for student research, and other initiatives to prepare students for careers in labor and worker-related institutions.

In addition to supporting programs at UC Berkeley, the budget increases funding for the UCLA Labor Center and Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program and the UC Merced Community and Labor Center. Additionally, the budget allocates funds to seed and develop a robust network of labor centers at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego.

This funding was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the California Labor Federation, key labor unions throughout the state, and elected officials including California State Senators Nancy Skinner and María Elena Durazo, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Assemblymembers Mike Fong and Ash Kalra.

“UC’s labor research and education programs provide California policymakers with high-quality, policy-relevant research on critical economic and workplace issues,” Skinner said. “The Legislature and the Governor’s agreement to expand these indispensable programs in this year’s state budget demonstrates their proven value, and the resulting policy recommendations will help our state government build a stronger and more just economy for Californians.”