IRLE Research and Policy Briefs
Growing inequality remains one of the most concerning economic issues in the United States. Despite this concern, current policy discussions ignore the role of industrial relations in creating economic equity. As a result, contemporary policy efforts have concentrated on the reform of the U.S. tax structure for the redistribution of income. While this policy prescription is important for mitigating wealth inequality, it obfuscates how the shift towards service and technical occupations intensified wage inequality and diminished the labor share of national income in the U.S. In order to address these issues, current policy discussions need to focus on how the deregulation of industrial relations in the U.S. contributed to the growth of income inequality. This brief shows how the neoliberal reform of industrial relations contributed to the growth of wage inequality in the United States since the 1970s. The liberalization of industrial relations in the United States has been characterized by the complete collapse of collective bargaining and union representation. In contrast, Germany and Finland instituted moderate reforms despite experiencing a similar shift toward service and technical occupations. Compared to the United States, wage inequality is far more moderate in Germany and Finland because of their alternative approach to liberalizing industrial relations. This cross-national difference in reform efforts illustrates how hostile relations between organized labor and employers facilitated the deregulation of industrial relations in the United States. Accordingly, given the concern over growing income inequality, progressive policy-makers need to advance a new agenda based on promoting cooperative relations between organized labor and employers and building cross-class coalitions to support efforts to create a social partnership between employers and unions in the United States.
Over the last six years, the “Raise the Wage” coalition has campaigned for raising the minimum wage and reducing the prevalence of wage-theft in Los Angeles. This campaign was successful with the passage of ordinance #183612 on June 10th, 2015, which set the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by the year 2020. More recently, the coalition successfully campaigned for a similar ordinance at the county-level. Despite the success of the “Raise the Wage” coalition in Los Angeles, opponents of these ordinances advanced powerful rhetorical frames of how minimum wage and labor enforcement harms small business. This policy brief examines these frames to better conceptualize possible responses to the counter-mobilization of employers against minimum wage. Additionally, the brief outlines how the coalitions may use this momentum to address other labor issues while offering strategies for similar campaigns across the country.
The warehouse industry is especially concentrated in the City of Ontario where a regional airport and several major freeways are located. As of 2013, a total of 338 warehouses were located in the city. While most of these warehouses employed less than 250 workers each, ten of them employed 250 or more workers each and several employed at least 1,000. This brief summarizes the results of a recent survey developed by researchers affiliated with University of California, Riverside (UCR) to fill this gap, and to provide a more complete understanding of wages and working conditions among Inland Southern California’s blue-collar warehouse workers.
The logistics industry is one of the most important industries contributing to economic development in Inland Southern California, which includes eastern portions of Los Angeles County, and Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The logistics industry employs warehouse workers, truckers, electricians and other trades specialists, supervisors and managers, and other types of workers engaged in moving goods from sites of production to retail stores. This brief summarizes the key findings from a recent survey of warehouse workers administered by UC Riverside researchers that assesses warehouse workers’ wages and benefits, specifically, the availability of health insurance to cover routine and emergency medical expenses.
As one of the primary engines of economic development, local governments are in a position to enhance employment opportunities for low income and minority workers by implementing policies to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in the local workforce. This brief reviews the policy tools and strategies available to municipal governments for targeted workforce development. Based on a survey of policies in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Cleveland, the brief shows types of policies local government agencies can implement to recruit, train, and provide employment opportunities for workers from disadvantage populations in local communities. The brief concludes policies that include members from the community in the developmental process and emphasize collaboration with civic organizations are more effective for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity in the local workforce.
This brief examines the history regulation and organizing short-haul trucking at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. During a long period of high union density and strong regulation, short haul truck-driving grew into a desirable blue-collar occupation. However, deregulation during the 1970s and 1980s incentivized trucking companies to shift their workforces to owner-operator truckers in response to competitive pressures. Amplified by rampant misclassification, this arrangement shifts risks and costs onto drivers while exempting them from labor protections and the ability to form a union. Wage theft in the form of lengthy and uncompensated wait times is also common. The brief concludes with a consideration of the applicability of model legislation from other states to the particularly acute issues faced by California's short-haul truckers.
This brief examines how organized labor is addressed within Social Studies standards in the U.S. and Canada, tracking how the social and political perception of unions and labor history influences how they are referenced within curricular content standards. The authors use this analysis to explore how state and provincial governments conceive of organized labor, what is being taught with regard to the same, and where strategic action might be necessary to help shape future narratives of the place and value of labor in the high school curriculum.
Over the past half-century, the nursing profession has made great strides in terms of professionalization, status, and compensation. The pervasive focus on coordination and quality of health care in recent health care reform continues to stress effective partnerships between nurses and physicians. However, implicit and often gendered notions of professional authority continue to create barriers to effective communication between nurses and physicians. Relying on interviews and extended observations, this brief reports findings of an in-depth study of nurse-physician interactions in a California hospital. The research has direct implications for the job satisfaction and retention of nurses. The findings also highlight how subtle power dynamics limit the potential of promising organizational change initiatives in the wake of healthcare reform.
In 2013, the California Legislature passed and Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 241 which established a bill of rights for domestic workers in the state of California. The enactment of Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (DWBOR) in California is part of the general diffusion of these policies across states. The report surveys DWBORs in U.S. states and Western European countries. Based on a review of the enforcement mechanisms in DWBOR legislation, the report concludes enforcement is vexed because it depends on low-waged workers themselves to initiate complaints without any guarantee of speedy redress and the risk of retaliation against workers. Since the enforcement mechanisms reflect structures of antagonism between domestic workers and their employers, civil organizations and state agencies play an important role in ensuring worker complaints are properly expedited and adjudicated in accordance with state labor standards.
As of 2014, there were approximately 11 million undocumented people living in the United States and an estimated 200,000 to 225,000 undocumented students enrolled in college. Nationally, undocumented students are significantly less likely than U.S. born citizens to complete high school and enroll in postsecondary education. This brief will illustrate the need for greater resources and engagement on social equity and immigrant rights issues. It also highlights the role that government, community-based organizations, educational institutions, and foundations can play in removing barriers to postsecondary success for undocumented students, especially for those living in hostile environments.
Since 1980, state governments have passed over 1700 pieces of immigration legislation equal in the number of permissive immigration laws to restrictive immigration laws. Driver’s Licenses are a policy area directly under state jurisdiction in which states are creating legislation regarding licenses for those unable to prove legal residence. This brief considers California and Oregon as case studies to examine state variation on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, and suggests that structural opportunities and the agency of state issue entrepreneurs opposing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants influence the process and ultimate outcome of driver’s license legislative efforts.
Announced by President Obama in June 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program offers eligible undocumented youth and young adults a reprieve from deportation and temporary work authorization. This study assesses DACA’s impacts on the educational and socioeconomic trajectories and health and wellbeing of young adults in Southern California, comparing DACA recipients with undocumented youth who do not have DACA status. The study took place 2.5 years after DACA’s initiation, with the purpose of exploring the longer-term impacts of the program. Findings suggest that existing policies related to health, education, employment, and immigration may not go far enough in meeting the needs of immigrant youth.
The low-wage survey was designed to assess wages, hours, working conditions, and labor law violations in low-wage industries along the South Coast, especially those linked to the tourist, hospitality, and retail trade sectors of the local economy. In early 2014 the Santa Barbara office of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) first proposed the survey as part of its very recent effort to more effectively serve those working in the urban service economy. Although unemployment in Santa Barbara has dropped to just 4 percent and most low wage workers in the survey benefit from something close to a 40 hour work week, wages seem not to have responded to these demand-side pressures: they are stagnant, little higher than for similar occupations in California as a whole. Various forms of “wage theft,” illegal employer behavior involving overtime pay, rest breaks, and other mandated benefits and standards, have reached epidemic proportions, especially for undocumented workers.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 is the only federal policy that provides job-protected leave in the United States. However, FMLA leave is unpaid, and restrictive eligibility requirements preclude over 40 percent of the workforce from taking advantage of this law. Cognizant of the FMLA’s limitations, family and medical leave advocates supported the bill as moderate legislation that could be improved with later incremental changes. While such changes have not happened at the federal level, several states have passed their own leave laws that offer wage replacement, cover more workers, lengthen leave duration, and expand definitions of “family” for the purposes of leave. This report provides a comprehensive account of state legislative histories with regard to family and medical leave, pre- and post-FMLA, and considers whether such state action has realized the FMLA as incremental policy. State legislative histories suggest that, for most workers, family and medical leave has not been substantially expanded. However, recent increases in state legislative activity also suggest the issue is gaining momentum.
Family child care (FCC) has become one of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S., with an estimated 2.3 million workers and many more working informally, providing alternatives to daycare centers' hours, cost and accessibility. Like the low-income women they serve (often through state child care subsidies), U.S. FCC providers are predominantly Latina and black women; in Los Angeles, they are primarily migrants from Mexico and Central America. These care laborers face many challenges, including unstable state subsidies and a lack of resources to outreach to low-wage clients. At the same time low-wage, predominantly women workers struggle in obtaining care to meet the needs of a "flexible," globalize economy. This brief will explore collaboration options for labor organizations serving low-wage workers and those organizing family child care providers.
Since California's Proposition 12 became law in 1978, other states have enacted similar legislation to limit the annual increase of local property tax revenues. Many of the most vigorous debates about property tax limitation concern its impact on other aspects of social life—critics have charged Proposition 13, for example, with distorting land-use decisions and reducing the quality of public services ranging from policing to public schools—but whatever the indirect effects of property tax limitations on such outcomes, they are generally assumed to exert those effects by changing how governments tax and spend. This brief will review what is known about the effects of property tax limitation on how we pay for local government.
Property tax limitation is often presented as a way to protect homeowners, but it comes at a price in local government services. The purpose of this brief is to summarize what is known about the effects of property tax limitation on the ability of local government to provide services. California’s long experience with property tax limitation is instructive, but so many things have changed in California since 1978 that it is difficult to know which changes in local government service provision can be attributed to Proposition 13 and which should be attributed to other causes. This brief will compares multiple states or jurisdictions with property tax limits to jurisdictions without them, on the assumption that comparative studies can shed light on California’s experience. They also may inform other jurisdictions that may be considering adopting or further tightening their own property tax limitations.
There are 289 cities in the U.S. with populations greater than 100,000. Of these cities, four have filed for bankruptcy since the last recession began in 2007. The most famous of them is Detroit, Michigan, but the other three—Vallejo, Stockton, and San Bernardino —were all in California. The purpose of this brief is to place these bankruptcies in comparative perspective and to highlight some lessons from relevant social science on the roots of big-city fiscal crises. Big-city bankruptcies are sufficiently rare events that we cannot rely on statistical studies of a large sample of cases to determine their causes
From the beginning of moving pictures in the 1890s, when women workers were captured on film leaving the filmmaker’s own factory, to the neoliberal reality of work, documentary films have revealed obscured histories and events and chronicled the struggles and changes that workers, unions, and the U.S. economy have experienced over the last hundred-plus years. These particular films have made an important contribution to the public‘s knowledge and understanding of labor, have sought to intervene in the exploitation of workers, and provided compelling tools for new forms of organizing. This brief offers approaches to thinking about independent documentary filmmaking in the U.S. dealing with labor and work issues. This brief also looks at various ways documentary film has furthered, and in one recent case undermined, a deeper understanding of work and the labor movement.
The political economy of street vending in Los Angeles is relatively understudied though recent publications by legal and urban scholars suggest a growing interest in the topic. This lack of scholarly attention has its corollary in practice as mainstream planning has generally treated vendors as an anomaly in the urban process. Most commonly found on sidewalks and public parks, but sometimes also on freeway off-ramps and street medians, street vendors have become an unavoidable feature of the urban landscape in contemporary Los Angeles, and other major urban centers in the U.S. such as New York and Chicago. This brief focuses on the spatial politics of street vending in Los Angeles. The topic is especially salient now as the city expands its investments in design and planning interventions to activate public space, streets and sidewalks, for local economic development, and to encourage public transit and transportation alternatives to the automobile.
Traditional economic development policies have often focused on export-oriented industries. This brief analyzes the health care industry, which is local-serving and export-oriented. With an aging population there will be increased demand for health care support occupations in long-term care. Moreover, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, there will be an increased demand for services and thus a demand for trained and qualified workers across the health care sector. However, the key problem is the fragmentation between the practitioner and technical services and health care support occupations. There is an absence of career ladders that help people in low‐wage health care support occupations move into higher wage health care support jobs and further up into practitioner and technical services positions. This brief proposes creating career ladders for health care support occupations through a comprehensive regional strategy.
In the fall of 2013, the US economy had not fully recovered from the damaging effects of the Great Recession. These effects are no better in evidence than in the net job loss since this recession began. As of November 2013, six years after the US economy fell into recession and four years after the recovery officially began, there were 1.3 million fewer jobs in the US economy than there were prior to the recession. This at a time when the nation’s population has grown by around 7 million people. The anemic recovery has exacerbated two of the most disturbing trends of the US economy over the past forty years: stagnant earnings and rising income inequality. During the recession, the demand for jobs has outstripped the supply, contributing to stagnant wages in the US and continuing a decades‐long trend. This brief, based on Matthew P. Drennan's forthcoming book Why Income Inequality Matters, and Why Most Economists Haven't Noticed, outlines the rise in income inequality, stagnant wages, and household indebtedness as factors contributing to the Great Recession, provides empirical evidence which ties income inequality to the recession, explores the mainstream economic theory of consumption and identifies the need for a new theory of consumption, and shows how the run‐up to the Great Recession bears striking similarities to the run‐up to the Great Depression.
Two landmark global initiatives—the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to alleviate extreme poverty and the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) to reduce the risk of disasters—expire in 2015. The United Nations is working with its member countries and international non-governmental organizations to craft a new development agenda and disaster resilience framework to succeed these global efforts. This report makes the case that cooperatives and associations of informal sector workers could become key players in global efforts to alleviate extreme poverty and enhance disaster resillience in urban slums and informal settlements.
Business incubators are a widely used economic development policy tool which aim to nurture and support the development of small, often high-technology oriented firms within local economies. In a short period of time, business incubators have become a very popular mechanism aimed at engendering economic growth in local economies, not only in the US, but also around the world. This report details the emergence of business incubators in the US, outlines the rational underlying the arrival of incubators as an economic development policy tool, and examines the impact of business incubators, commenting on their success as an economic development policy tool.
Despite nearly 4 years of recovery, both the country as a whole and California are still struggling with the aftermath of the recession – its impact on job growth and unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment. At the current rate of job growth, it will take until 2020 to reach prerecession employment levels. Yet, unemployment continues to fall. This report explores how this can be, finding the labor force to be short millions of workers from what would have been expected without a recession. This report concludes by arguing for the implementation of job creation policies rather than the current focus on austerity.
While the Great Recession officially ended in July 2009, both the country as a whole and the State are still struggling with the aftermath of the recession, particularly its impact on job growth. The unemployment rate in the U.S. is still above 8% and expected remain this high throughout 2012 and 2013. California’s unemployment rate is still above 11%. This report provides an examination of where we are now, more than two and a half years after the end of the recession, both in the United States as a whole and in California.
The Brief, "Project Labor Agreements in Los Angeles: The Example of the Los Angeles Unified School District," provides a discussion of project labor agreements and their role in creating high road construction jobs. The LAUSD is put forth as an example of a major employer in Los Angeles adhering to such an agreement. The Brief, which is co-published by the California Construction Academy, highlights the success of the LAUSD in meeting the goals of its agreement.
This report discusses the federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which would provide educational opportunities and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people living in the U.S. Although the federal DREAM Act, which failed passage in late 2010, was re-introduced in Congress in May 2011, it faces a long struggle. Thus, this report emphasizes the importance of state measures, highlighting the California DREAM Act, which has recently passed the California State Assembly and the Senate Education Committee. The report also points to the innovative work of undocumented students who are leading a national fight for access to higher education and citizenship
This brief, co-authored by Chinese researcher Prof. Jian Qiao, Director and Associate Professor of the Department of Industrial Relations at the China Institute of Industrial Relations and IRLE’s Research Director, Lauren Appelbaum, explores the development of a tripartite consultation mechanism in Chinese labor relations. While the Chinese system does not fulfill all of the requirements of a tripartite consultation mechanism as laid out by the ILO, it does form the basis for a new type of social dialogue in China.
This brief, co-published with the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program, reviews the accomplishments of OSHA over its 40-year history, highlighting the agency’s important role in reducing workplace fatalities and protecting workers in a variety of industries from harm. In the current anti-government political climate, we make the case for robust government regulations backed by scientific evidence and effective enforcement
Our seventh brief in our series of Research and Policy Briefs celebrates the opening of the Labor Center’s Los Angeles Black Worker Center. The Brief documents the employment struggles of black workers, particularly given the current economic conditions in the country and the region, and demonstrates the important resource the Los Angeles Black Worker Center will be able to provide for these workers.
The sixth brief in our series of Research and Policy Briefs examines recent legislation in New York and California to enact a Domestic Works Bill of Rights. The brief details why these laws are needed now and what worker protections they will provide.
Our fifth brief in our series of Research and Policy Briefs documents the tension in the retail sector between competitive strategies based on cost cutting and those that rely on service and quality. Comparison with Europe suggests other possible institutional approaches with significant implications for the nature of retail jobs.
Our fourth brief looks at how different groups of workers – African Americans, Latinos, Young People, and Men – are feeling the brunt of the recession.
The third brief in our series of Research and Policy Briefs highlights the work of the Service Employees International Union Local 1877, the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access, and the UCLA Labor Center in understanding and addressing the educational issues facing union members’ children. SEIU Local 1877 has sponsored “Parent University” workshops which teach members about topics that will help them to support their own children’s academic success and advocate for school improvements. SEIU Local 1877 is also working with a collaborative of unions and community groups to expand upon the Parent University work and stay involved in children’s education.
Our second brief discusses the new Los Angeles Ordinance creating the Green Retrofit and Workforce Program. This Ordinance is unique in that it works to improve both the environment and the economy by promoting good, green, safe jobs.
Our first brief looks at California’s disturbingly high unemployment rate in the context of the broad U.S. economic recession.