IRLE Updates - Letter from the Director
Dear friend of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment,
I hope you had an enjoyable holiday season! As the new year starts, we are taking stock of the summer and fall just past and looking ahead to 2014. Question: can the Institute best define itself as local, national, or global? The answer, of course, is “all of the above,” as a selection of recent IRLE activities make clear.
To start with, the Institute and its units act locally in many domains. For instance, in one set of recent trainings, IRLE’s Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (LOSH) put groups of workers through the Worker Occupational Health and Safety Specialist course in Santa Ana, San Diego, and here in Los Angeles (at the Esperanza Housing Corporation). IRLE’s Labor Center partnered with the Children’s Defense Fund and the Miguel Contreras Foundation to run a summer Freedom School for high-school immigrant youth at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex. The Labor Center also helped draft and make the case for new California laws punishing wage theft and establishing a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. IRLE’s Human Resource Round Table (HARRT) hosted HR leaders from area businesses and organizations at their Annual Retreat on “HR Agility: Are You Ready for What’s Next?”, featuring speakers from the Kellogg and Fuqua business schools along with executives from companies ranging from Deloitte to Occidental Petroleum. (Welcome to HARRT’s new Executive Director, Ellen Sheehan, and Faculty Chair, Corinne Bendersky, who started out with a splash!) And our thriving Labor and Workplace Studies Minor scored 100% student satisfaction in UCLA’s annual Senior Survey—again!
IRLE also has a large national footprint in research, policy, and strategy. The Labor Center seemed omnipresent at the every-five-years AFL-CIO convention, and helped to organize the Diversity Preconference that attracted over 1,000 to discuss how to more effectively involve diverse workforces and communities. The Black Workers Center helped organize the Black Workers Congress that fed into the convention. LOSH likewise had an outsized presence at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in Boston. LOSH Director Linda Delp finished out her term as Chair of the APHA’s Occupational Health and Safety Section, Delp and three LOSH colleagues received a Scientific Research Award for recent work on heat illness, and LOSH partners Warehouse Workers United also received an award for grassroots action. The IRLE Academic Unit’s fall event lineup included new National Labor Relations Board member Harry Johnson speaking on “The Board and its Role on the Frontiers of Employment Law” in the Ben Aaron Labor Law Lecture, along with talks on Los Angeles Labor history, the crisis of public sector unionism, and the hidden worlds of coffee shop waitresses and hair stylists.
The Institute is keeping busy at the global level as well. The Academic Unit published the report Informal Worker Organizing as a Strategy for Improving Subcontracted Work in the Textile and Apparel Industries of Brazil, South Africa, India and China, based on a year of fieldwork in the four countries funded by the US Department of Labor. Capping years of building cross-national labor connections, the Labor Center hosted the unprecedented delegations of Chinese and Vietnamese union leaders to the AFL-CIO Convention. The Labor Center’s Institute for Transnational Social Change organized a US-Mexico-Canada convening of labor leaders on the occasion of NAFTA’s 20th anniversary. And the Academic Unit is hosting a bumper crop of Visiting Scholars from around the world, including two each from China, Mexico, and Denmark, plus scholars from Japan and Germany. At a recent conference in Brazil, an Argentine labor sociologist introduced me to others by saying, “Chris runs the only university research center on work and employment in the US.” I quickly corrected her, but it’s one indication that IRLE’s global profile is large and growing.
2014 will bring more thought-provoking, change-making research and action. Economist Till Von Wachter will kick off 2014’s colloquia with a talk on “The Lifetime Cost of Job Displacement” on February 5. At the end of that month, IRLE will hold a conference on “Race, Labor, and the Law” cosponsored with UCLA Law School’s Critical Race Studies Program and others (register now!). In the Spring quarter, Civil Rights giant Reverend James Lawson will offer his wildly popular Nonviolence and Social Movements course through the Labor Studies Minor; the Labor Center is producing Rev. Lawson’s first-ever book on his approach to nonviolent social action, due to appear in 2014 as well. On the global front, IRLE and Italian labor think tank ADAPT will be releasing How Global Migration Changes the Workforce Diversity Equation, a book based on the highly successful spring conference at UCLA that brought scholars from six continents.
Whether your interests lie mainly at the local, national, or global level—or span all three—I hope you will connect with the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment in 2014. Visit our website soon to find past and upcoming events, publications and research, Visiting Scholar profiles, Labor Studies Minor offerings, and more. While you are on the website, I hope you will take the opportunity to click on the Donate button. State support only pays a small portion of our bills, and we increasingly depend on support from individual donors like you in order to mount our programs that think and act locally, nationally and globally. Hope to see you in 2014!
Professor of Urban Planning and Sociology
Director, UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment