Non-profit

Center for Labor Research and Education

Website:

laborcenter.berkeley.edu

Location:

Berkeley, CA

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

The Center for Labor Research and Education, also called the Labor Center, is a program of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE), based at the University of California, Berkeley. It works with labor unions to push policy programs. [1]

California taxpayers help to fund the pro-union organization. Foundations, state government agencies, businesses, and other unions are also among the funders. [2] Over the last 15 years, labor unions have donated about $1.2 million to IRLE, the Labor Center’s parent organization. [3]

Background

The institute founded the Labor Center in 1964. It conducts research and education programs related to labor and labor unions with curricula and leadership trainings courses.

The Labor Center conducts workshops and leadership development schools for union members and leaders to organize campaigns. These education programs also have specific workshops for black trade unionists, Latino union leaders, and union women. [4]

Leadership

Ken Jacobs is the chairman of the Labor Center and a former labor union campaigner, having worked as campaign director at the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition. [5] He has been a specialist with the center since 2002. He has experience in research on wages, labor standards and health insurance. Jacobs has researched the effect of the minimum wage laws in the cities of Seattle, Los Angeles and San Jose. [6]

Jacobs is the co-editor of When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level along with co-editors Michael Reich and Miranda Dietz. The book was about the labor standards in San Francisco. Jacobs also leads a multi-campus research project in California of the impact of Obamacare. [7]

Steven C. Pitts is the associate director of the Labor Center. He started at the center in 2001. He previously taught economics at Houston Community College. He also initiated a black union leadership school while at the center. [8]

Annette Bernhardt is the director of the low-wage program. Bernhardt previously advocated for new workplace mandates when she worked for the National Employment Law Project, which is a union-backed advocacy group. She also sits on the board of various labor groups. [9]

Anibel Ferus-Comelo is the director of student programming. Mariam Hosseini is the communications director. Carol Zabin is the director of the Green Economy Program. Laurel Lucia is the director of the health care program. Danielle Mahones is the director of the leadership development program. [10]

The advisory board is made up of representatives from several labor union groups and liberal advocacy organizations. This includes representatives from local affiliates of the AFL-CIO, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the International Association of Machinists, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Service Employees International Union, and AFSCME; the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council; Jobs with Justice San Francisco; the California Teachers Association; Working Partnerships USA; and East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. [11] Notable left-of-center figures on the advisory board associated with academic institutions include former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Restaurant Opportunities Center-United co-founder Saru Jayaraman, and Michael Reich of the labor center’s parent organization, U.C. Berkeley’s IRLE. [12]

Advocacy

Minimum Wage

The Center for Labor Research and Education has faced criticism for its research asserting the union-supporting conclusion that substantial increases to the statutory minimum wage do not cause dis-employment.

Ken Jacobs, the chairman of the Labor Center, reportedly wrote in a 2014 email obtained through a freedom of information request, that he was seeking grant money for the Labor Center’s efforts “for local groups engaged in work to raise the minimum wage” in California. He said in the email that the Labor Center would offer “testimony/media work” in support of the potential donors’ goals. [13]

In one email exchange, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s (D) office asked the Labor Center to produce research “to demonstrate clearly how a [higher minimum wage] will help labor and the economy in general.” The center later produced studies with favorable results regarding a minimum wage hike in the city. [14]

In 2017, then-Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s (D) office also emailed asking for research on the $15 minimum wage for the city as a counterweight to a city-funded report by the University of Washington that found negative consequences for employees under the law. The mayor’s office reportedly worked with the Labor Center on a timeline to produce a favorable report on increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Seattle Weekly ran a headline, “The City Knew the Bad Minimum Wage Report Was Coming Out, So It Called up Berkeley.”  [15]

Other Policies

In September 2019, the center released a study asserting that environmentalist goals are set back when trucking companies that classify drivers as independent contractors rather than fulltime employees. The report titled “Truck Driver Misclassification: Climate, Labor, and Environmental Justice Impacts” says the cost for cleaner trucks rests on the drivers who are less likely to make adjustments to the vehicle. [16]

The organization also criticized a pending Trump administration rule on how to measure the poverty line. The organization asserted that potentially “tens of thousands of Californians” and millions of Americans could see reduced subsidies. [17]

While generally supportive of left-leaning causes, the organization has been critical of anticipated harm to workers that will come from Obamacare’s excise tax on job-based health insurance plans that have high premiums, a criticism also levied against the law by labor unions. [18][19]

References

  1. About. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/about/ ^
  2. Funding. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/people/ ^
  3. Saltsman, Michael. “UC’s Biased, Activist Labor Research Centers.” Orange County Register. September 13, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019. https://www.ocregister.com/2019/09/13/ucs-biased-activist-labor-research-centers/ ^
  4. Labor Education. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/labor-education/ ^
  5. Saltsman, Michael. “UC’s Biased, Activist Labor Research Centers.” Orange County Register. September 13, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019. https://www.ocregister.com/2019/09/13/ucs-biased-activist-labor-research-centers/ ^
  6. Ken Jacobs. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/author/ken-jacobs/ ^
  7. Ken Jacobs. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/author/ken-jacobs/ ^
  8. Steven C. Pitts. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/author/steven-pitts/ ^
  9. Saltsman, Michael. “UC’s Biased, Activist Labor Research Centers.” Orange County Register. September 13, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019. https://www.ocregister.com/2019/09/13/ucs-biased-activist-labor-research-centers/ ^
  10. People. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/people/ ^
  11. About. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/about/ ^
  12. About. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/about/ ^
  13. Saltsman, Michael. “UC’s Biased, Activist Labor Research Centers.” Orange County Register. September 13, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019. https://www.ocregister.com/2019/09/13/ucs-biased-activist-labor-research-centers/ ^
  14. Saltsman, Michael. “UC’s Biased, Activist Labor Research Centers.” Orange County Register. September 13, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019. https://www.ocregister.com/2019/09/13/ucs-biased-activist-labor-research-centers/ ^
  15. Pearson, Daniel. “The City Knew the Bad Minimum Wage Report Was Coming Out, So It Called Up Berkeley.” Seattle Weekly. June 26, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2019. https://www.seattleweekly.com/news/seattle-is-getting-an-object-lesson-in-weaponized-data/ ^
  16. Bay City News Service. “Study Says Truck Driver Misclassification Hurts Climate Goals.” San Francisco Chronicle. September 2, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019. https://www.sfgate.com/news/bayarea/article/Study-Says-Truck-Driver-Misclassification-Hurts-14406891.php ^
  17. Perry, Ian Eve. “Proposed Trump Administration Change to Federal Poverty Definition Would Cut Aid to Millions of Californians.” Center for Labor Research and Education. June 11, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/proposed-fpl-cpi-change/ ^
  18. Lucia, Laurel. “ACA Excise Tax Likely to Further Shift Health Costs to Workers.” Center for Labor Research and Education. July 15, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/aca-excise-tax-likely-to-further-shift-health-costs-to-workers/ ^
  19. See Vinci, John. “Labor Watch: The Obamacare ‘Oops!’: Unions Got the Healthcare Program Passed, Now Want to Exempt Themselves.” Capital Research Center. Capital Research Center, November 5, 2013. https://capitalresearch.org/article/labor-watch-the-obamacare-oops-unions-got-the-healthcare-program-passed-now-want-to-exempt-themselves/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Robert Reich
    Advisory Board Member
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Center for Labor Research and Education

2521 Channing Way # 5555
Berkeley, CA 94720