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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The Institute for Labor and Employment (ILE) is a new multi-campus research program that is devoted to studying, and finding solutions for, problems of labor and employment in California and the nation. It expands upon the existing Institutes of Industrial Relations (IIRs) at UC Berkeley and UCLA, which were founded in 1945, and on the two Centers for Labor Research and Education housed in the IIRs on those two campuses. The ILE itself is based at UCLA and UC Berkeley, but draws on and supports faculty, academic staff, and students throughout all the campuses in the UC system, sponsoring a variety of employment-related research and service activities.

University of California Institute for Labor and Employment

There are 41 publications in this collection, published between 2001 and 2004.
The State of California Labor, 2001 (18)
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The State of California Labor, 2002 (8)

Income Polarization and California's Social Contract

This chapter explores the implications of growing economic and social inequality in California for the state's social contract, as well as the role of government and other institutions in addressing the new polarization. Data from the ILE's 2001-02 California Workforce Survey reveal that a majority of Californians are seriously concerned about the widening economic divide and support public policy measures that would help to narrow it. Respondents with lower incomes and less education are especially supportive of a strong government role in this area, as are noncitizens, Latinos, and African Americans. Because of the concentration of low-wage workers, immigrants, and Latinos in the southern part of the state, attitudes there belie the conservative stereotype of Southern California, traditionally juxtaposed to the relatively liberal attitudes assumed to be typical of the Bay Area. The survey results suggest that today, southern Californians are in fact more supportive of a strong government role than are people in the rest of the state. Southern Californians are also more pro-union than their counterparts elsewhere in the state. Another important topic in the chapter is public policy in regard to the problem of combining work and family responsibilities, with a large majority of survey respondents reporting that they favor compensating workers for family leave, and making child care and elder care more affordable.

Work in the Postindustrial Economy of California

Utilizing new data from the ILE's 2001-02 California Workforce Survey, this chapter compares the situation of the state's managers and professionals, on the one hand, to that of its clerical, service and blue-collar workers, on the other. Even more than in the past, the contrast between the two groups is striking. The managerial-professional group - which is disproportionately white and male - is doing well, both in regard to incomes and fringe benefits as well as in regard to the quality of work experience. Most managerial and professional respondents find their work enjoyable, but many report working long hours and being tied to their jobs after hours by new telecommunications technologies. By contrast, clerical, service, and blue-collar workers - a disproportionately female, nonwhite and foreign-born group - earn less, have fewer fringe benefits, and work shorter hours - in many cases fewer hours than they would like. They are also much more fearful of layoffs. However, unionized workers in the clerical, service and blue-collar group enjoy more job security as well as better pay and fringe benefits than do their nonunion counterparts.

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The State of California Labor, 2003 (8)

The State of Organizing in California: Challenges and Possibilities

The authors assess the status of recent organizing efforts in California and examine the challenges that must be overcome if California unions are going to significantly increase union density in the state. Through their analysis of a combination of national and state data on employment, union membership, workforce and union demographics, and public and private sector union organizing activity, they find that unions in California have been more successful than unions in other states in increasing union membership and density in both the private and public sectors. In particular, the California labor movement has made significant strides in organizing immigrant workers, especially in health care and other services. Still, when placed in the context of employment growth, the authors find that organizing gains in California continue to be relatively modest and have been concentrated in a limited number of occupations and industries. Using their findings from a national survey of NLRB election campaigns, the authors argue that unions in California will only be able to fulfill the potential provided them by increasing density and a diverse workforce if they run more comprehensive organizing campaigns and more effectively use their political influence and bargaining power to improve the environment for organizing in the state.

Living Wage Ordinances in California

Living wage mandates legislate minimum hourly wages that are considerably higher than minimum wage rates. Since 1994 living wage ordinances have been passed and, in varying degrees, implemented in over ninety-five local governmental entities in the United States; among them are twenty-one California cities. The author presents a summary of the living wage ordinances in California, including their wage mandate levels and their coverage. He discusses how the minimum wage and the federal poverty standard have failed to keep up with increased living costs, especially in California’s cities, and reviews arguments for and against living wage policies. The author also surveys older academic studies on minimum wage and living wages and then discusses a new generation of research studies on the impacts of living wages. This new set of studies, which includes detailed analyses of Los Angeles and San Francisco, provides a more careful and complete understanding than was previously available. Using before-and-after surveys of employers and workers and more sophisticated methodology, they reveal that living wage policies increase pay for their intended beneficiaries without creating disemployment effects. Living wage policies also reduce employee turnover and absenteeism and improve worker performance, thereby creating some employer savings in the short run and generating incentives for productivity growth in the long run. The policies’ costs to employers and taxpayers are considerably smaller than some have projected. The author concludes by discussing recent developments in living wage campaigns that may lead to greater impacts in the future.

Immigrant Employment and Mobility Opportunities in California

The 1990s were a period of record immigration to California and the United States, with both legal and unauthorized immigrants arriving in the country and state, a trend that will likely continue in the twenty-first century. Many observers have been concerned that a bimodal pattern of immigrant education, with many immigrants either being poorly or very well educated, overlaps too closely with the increasingly polarized distribution of job growth in the country. The authors’ analysis of changing employment patterns and the shifting distribution of bad and good jobs in the 1994–2000 economic boom suggests, however, that immigration is not fundamentally driving the emergence of a polarized job structure in either California or the United States. That structure derives largely from changes among the native born, suggesting that shifts in labor demand explain the pattern, rather than increases in the supply of less-skilled and highly skilled immigrant workers. Immigrants in California, however, do contribute to the polarization to varying degrees, depending on race/ethnicity, gender, and location. The authors’ analysis of arrival cohort data suggests substantial immigrant upward mobility, mainly from lower to middle-range jobs in Los Angeles and from middle to higher range jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area. This does not mean that predictions based on racial/ethnic stratification theories are inaccurate, but it does suggest that such perspectives should be modified by taking into account the effects of newcomer status and the likelihood that immigrants may experience more upward mobility than many commentators presume.

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The State of California Labor, 2004 (7)

Upgrading California's Home Care Workforce: The Impact of Political Action and Unionization

Candace Howes examines the recent history of one of California’s rapidly growing occupations: home care. As the author’s analysis demonstrates, home care has been extensively transformed in recent years through large-scale unionization and coalition-based political action, which have led to major improvements in wages and benefits. Apart from providing many home care workers with better pay, the upgrading of this occupation has also improved the quality of care that clients receive, since higher wages make for lower turnover. The improved working and living conditions that result benefit caregivers and those they serve alike. The author’s empirical analysis has obvious ramifications for low-wage employment generally, particularly in the burgeoning health care and personal services sector.

Preface and Acknowledgments

Ruth Milkman summarizes the contents of the 2004 issue of The State of California Labor, an annual publication of the University of California Institute for Labor and Employment.

About the Contributors

List of contributors for the 2004 volume of The State of California Labor, an annual publication of the UC Institute for Labor and Employment.

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