IRLE Updates - Letter from the Director




Winter 2014


Dear friend of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment,


Inequality is back on the agenda in the US.  President Obama is highlighting it in his speeches, and even Congressional Republicans, typically resistant to discussing class divides, are decrying "inequality of opportunity."  Of course, the widening divide is actually old news, dating back to the 1970s.  The UCLA Institute for Research and Employment has been documenting social and economic inequality, and devising strategies to narrow those gaps, for at least that long-and recent months are no exception.


Our February conference on "Race, Labor, and the Law," cosponsored with UCLA Law School's Critical Race Studies Program, brought together top scholars on disparities by race and ethnicity, class, gender, and immigration status for two days of lively discussion, with over 150 in attendance (if you missed the conference, check out the website with program and-soon-video of the conference).  IRLE's Labor Center unit has built on a series of IRLE and Labor Center publications on wage theft with Hollow Victories: The Crisis in Collecting Unpaid Wages for California's Workers.  The Labor Center has also helped draft legislation to stop wage theft, and has partnered with California Labor Commission Julie Su to strengthen labor law enforcement and to eliminate sweatshops.  Recent IRLE Colloquium speakers have include Barry Bluestone (Northeastern University) on "The great U-turn: Inequality in America" and Eileen Appelbaum (CEPR) and Rosemary Batt (Cornell) on "Private equity at work: When Wall Street manages Main Street."  At IRLE's Human Resource Round Table, UCLA Anderson School of Management Visiting Professor Ian Larkin presented on "Reward systems and motivation."  And IRLE's Labor Studies courses this year are giving UCLA undergrads a rigorous set of tools to understand and challenge inequality - spring quarter offerings include Civil Rights Movement titan Rev. James Lawson's ever-popular "Nonviolence and Social Movements" course as well as "Working Families and Educational Inequalities in Urban Schools" and a variety of others (and we will be graduating the largest class of Labor Studies minors ever this year!).  Coming up, don't miss outspoken economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic & Policy Research giving his take on "Getting back to full employment" on April 9 - full employment being a great equalizer that has been in short supply lately.


Inequality takes a toll not just on pocket books, but on bodies.  The Labor Center has just released Parts 1 and 2 of Undocumented and Uninsured, a study of California undocumented immigrant youth's woefully inadequate access to health care.  And IRLE's Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Program is gearing up for its annual Workers' Memorial Day observation with a week of action to remember the nearly 5,000 workers who are killed each year in the United States by traumatic injuries in unsafe jobs.


Of course, inequality is a global issue, not just a US one, and IRLE's programming and publications reflect this global dimension as well.  Picking up on the theme of worker health disparities, our 16th Research and Policy Brief, Where There Are Few Unions: Health and Safety Education for Organizing in Export Zones, explores this issue in the export platforms of the Global South that make our most of our electronics and clothing.  And a recent IRLE Visiting Scholar Workshop brought together Visiting Scholars Xiaohui Ban from China, Jennifer Nazareno from UC San Francisco, and Tomoyuki Shimanuki from Japan to discuss their research on nonstandard work in the three countries.


When it comes to strategizing about ways to reduce and bridge the inequalities that fracture our society, the UCLA Labor Center has no parallel.   We would like to invite everyone to the Labor Center's 50th Anniversary Banquet, celebrating five decades of ground-breaking work, with AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti (invited).  The banquet will also celebrate the UCLA Labor Studies graduating class of 2014.


It has taken decades for the "one percent" to pull away from the rest of us so dramatically, and it will most likely take decades to reverse this destructive divergence of fortunes.  You can bet that the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment will continue to be deeply involved in the research, education and training, and technical assistance to grassroots movements and policy-makers that will be required to turn around the trend.  I hope you'll stop by our website to check out new publications, future events and video from past ones, and to browse through our growing network of Visiting Scholars and Research Affiliates.  As always, I remind you that IRLE programs absolutely depend on the generous support of individuals like you, since funding from the University of California is limited and frequently under threat-so I hope you will steer your cursor to the website's Donate button.  Let's pull together for a more equal world.


Best wishes,

Chris Tilly
Professor of Urban Planning and Sociology
Director, UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment