IRLE Updates - Letter from the Director



Fall 2016



I am deeply honored to be appointed the new Director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE).  I consider my appointment an important responsibility to do what we do best at UCLA-- innovative research, exciting teaching and service that impacts on behalf of all Californians.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, which for me gives the “public” in public university special meaning. I grew up learning important lessons from my father, a hard-working individual who learned to upholster and transform old furniture into new. He was an entrepreneur who arrived to Los Angeles during a period period of massive growth and demographic change and he taught me to embrace our city and its potential to embrace change.  My mother, also an immigrant, become a public school preschool teacher working with immigrant families as they transitioned themselves and their children in Los Angeles.  She taught me the power of reading and education and as a result, I am the proud product of the University of California. Imagine my thrill at accepting UCLA’s job offer after completing my doctorate at MIT. It was my dream to return to Los Angeles and work in the City of my birth and at the flagship campus of the University of California.  My entire academic career has been at UCLA and I’ve never left because of its mission and greatness as a public institution in what is arguably one of the greatest global centers in the world.  

At the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, our work is dedicated to research, teaching and service with the goal of improving workers’ lives. We undertake rigorous, relevant and timely research about changing labor markets and how immigrants, young people, and low-wage workers participate in these and similar markets. We train workers on health and safety measures that are sometimes the difference between life and death to ensure greater worker protections at the workplace. We also help companies recruit and retain diverse, skilled workforces nationwide by training for executives in the human resources field.

And our teaching program is growing exponentially. Every year, more and more students enroll in our cutting edge Labor Studies courses.  Our classes bolster student’s research skills and place them into organizations that have a real and direct impact in the world. In the best sense of the word, we undertake service and service that matters. We serve this city, our many community partners, civil society, UCLA, and its extended family of students, alumni, and donors.

In this next phase of the Institute, I plan to lift up Los Angeles’s lessons for the country. We are fortunate to live in a city like Los Angeles, which has driven the national debate on workforce issues such as the minimum wage, wage theft, youth employment and immigration. These key issues are shaping the conversation about the future of work nationwide. In an economy that’s changing by the day, I believe it is our obligation and responsibility to learn, discover, and continue to build from these ideas to address the most intractable and important issues confronting workers and their families.

I look forward to working with all of you to make this vision a reality.


Thank you,

Abel Valenzuela