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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment supports faculty and graduate student research on employment and labor topics in a variety of academic disciplines. The Institute also sponsors colloquia, conferences and other public programming, and is home to the undergraduate minor in Labor and Workplace Studies at UCLA. The Institute also includes three sub-units: the UCLA Labor Center, the Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program, and the Human Resources Round Table.

Work, Pay, or Go to Jail: Court-Ordered Community Service in Los Angeles


Each year in Los Angeles County, about 100,000 people are forced to work for free. We refer here not to wage theft or labor trafficking but to a formal government practice that uses the power of the criminal legal system to require people to work without pay. This practice is called “community service,” a euphemism for a fundamentally coercive system situated at the intersection of mass incarceration and economic inequality, with the most profound effects on communities of color. This report provides the first in-depth, empirical study of a large-scale system of court-ordered community service in the contemporary United States.

Court-ordered community service is typically understood as a progressive alternative to incarceration for people who would otherwise face jail time and/or court debt they cannot afford to pay. However, it also functions as a distinct system of labor that operates outside the rules and beneath the standards designed to protect workers from mistreatment and exploitation.

Tip Work: Examining the Relational Dynamics of Tipping beyond the Service Counter


Tips constitute a growing form of income for roughly three million American workers today. While existing scholarship on tipping focuses on worker-customer dynamics, it neglects the implications of gratuities beyond the service counter. Drawing on the case of restaurant workersin Los Angeles, this study analyzes tip work, the bundle of social relations and labor experiences framed by tips in commercial settings. I argue that tipping strains relations between subgroups of workers who, despite collectively producing service, are subject to unequal access to tip earnings. Tips thereby shape relations among workers in ways that exacerbate existing organizational and social hierarchies.

More Than a Gig: A Survey of Ride-hailing Drivers in Los Angeles


Ride-hailing, also known as ridesharing and ridesourcing, is where drivers connect withpassengers through Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft,through a phone app. This report, the first comprehensive study of ride-hailing driversin Los Angeles County, is based on 260 surveys, 8 interviews and an extensive policy andliterature review. It captures the reality of TNC drivers in the so-called “gig economy,”foregrounds the experience of drivers, and describes what this labor entails.

Because of its high population density, an increased demand for service work, and anemergent desire for more independent working conditions, Los Angeles is an ideal site for on-demand ride-hailing companies. Yet the rise of TNCs and other online labor platforms has prompted concerns about the future of essential employment laws, the quality of available work, and whether an economy that works for everyone is attainable. Moreover, uneven regulation has allowed technology companies to flourish in the gray areas of workers’ rights.

Ride-hailing is non-standard and often temporary work, and there are significant questions around how wages are determined, income instability, job security, and workplace safety. Drivers are currently classified as independent contractors, and thus absorb every risk associated with the work, while companies are freed from ensuring workplace benefits and other protections. In Los Angeles, Uber drivers actually earn less than the mandated minimum wage. Importantly, their classification prevents them from engagingin collective bargaining practices to address a wide range of issues.

In addition, TNCs operate under laxer regulations than those for taxis and other transportation operators. Many rules set for taxi operation, such as base fares and caps on vehicles, prevent the oversaturation of vehicles and provide a viable income for drivers. Other taxi regulations ensure that services offered are not discriminatory and provide access for those with disabilities. Ride-hailing also impacts public transportation, and has led to a 6% reduction in Americans using bus services and a 3% decline in the use of lightrail service. This year, the number of people taking for-hire vehicles nationally is expected to surpass that of those taking the bus.

Mortality and Morbidity during Extreme Heat Events and Prevalence of Outdoor Work: An Analysis of Community-Level Data from Los Angeles County, California


Heat is a well-recognized hazard for workers in many outdoor settings, yet fewinvestigations have compared the prevalence of outdoor work at the community level and rates of heat-related mortality and morbidity. This analysis examines whether heat-related health outcomes occur more frequently in communities with higher proportions of residents working in construction,agriculture, and other outdoor industries. Using 2005–2010 data from Los Angeles County, California, we analyze associations between community-level rates of deaths, emergency department (ED) visits, and hospitalizations during summer heat events and the prevalence of outdoor work. We findgenerally higher rates of heat-related ED visits and hospitalizations during summer heat events in communities with more residents working outdoors. Specifically, each percentage increase in residents working in construction resulted in an 8.1 percent increase in heat-related ED visits and a 7.9 percent increase in heat-related hospitalizations, while each percentage increase in residents working in agriculture and related sectors resulted in a 10.9 percent increase in heat-related ED visits.The findings suggest that outdoor work may significantly influence the overall burden of heat-related morbidity at the community level. Public health professionals and healthcare providers should recognize work and employment as significant heat risk factors when preparing for and respondingto extreme heat events.

Cover page of A New Map of Right-to-Work?  Pushing the "Local Option" in Kentucky and Illinois

A New Map of Right-to-Work?  Pushing the "Local Option" in Kentucky and Illinois


Until recently, the spread of “right-to-work” (RTW) legislation formed a fairly dormant chapter in the history of labor relations and state policy. By the conventional narrative, the state-by-state adoption of RTW rules represented a key front of postwar anti-union politics, helping to establish an uneven geography of workplace regulations, possibly contributing to the shift of manufacturing to the Sunbelt, and undermining union-dense production sectors in the Northeast and Midwest. However, this once largely closed episode of economic restructuring has re-opened with three Midwestern states adopting RTW over the past three years and a broader uptick in related legislation in other states. Focusing on one new front of anti-union legislative campaigns, this report examines the emergence of RTW law as a viable option for local governments. Beyond probing the limits of federal regulations, local RTW’s circulation as a flexible policy concept strategically exploits political and economic factors at the local scale that differ from the “rules of the game” established at the state level.

Cover page of Wal-Mart’s Limited Growth in Urban Retail Markets: The Cost of Low Labor Investment

Wal-Mart’s Limited Growth in Urban Retail Markets: The Cost of Low Labor Investment


Expanding Walmart’s share of urban markets is becoming increasingly important to the company because of declining sales growth and the over-saturation of suburban and rural retail markets. The company has sought urban expansion, especially outside its home base in the South, for over 15 years, but in recent years their quest has taken on added urgency. During 2009’s 16th Annual Meeting for the Investment Community of Walmart, former Vice Chairman Eduardo Castro Wright stated achieving average market share in the most urban areas of the United States would increase annual sales by $80 to $100 billion. Over the next six years, Walmart developed an ambitious growth strategy aimed at expanding the company’s share of the urban retail market by using smaller store models designed to boosts grocery and e-commerce sales in these areas. Neil Currie, an analyst at UBS Securities LLC, estimated in 2010 that the company’s strategy for expanding into urban markets could potentially increase its annual revenue by over 20 percent. Despite such bold predictions, Walmart’s urban growth has been disappointing. This report explores Walmart’s shortfall in city-based growth, and how community and consumer opposition to the company's low labor standards and negative impact on local business has contributed to that shortfall.

Cover page of Examining The Evidence: The Impact of the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance on Workers and Businesses

Examining The Evidence: The Impact of the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance on Workers and Businesses


This study represents the most definitive analysis of a living wage lawís impact on workers and employers. It provides important new insights on the effects of living wage policies, which have been adopted by more than 120 local governments around the country. The studyís findings are based on three original random-sample surveys of workers and firms. Random sampling techniques ensure that survey findings are representative of the entire population being studied. The surveys include:

• A survey of 320 workers affected by the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance, conducted after the pay increase had taken place. This is the first such survey ever completed.

• A survey of 82 firms affected by the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance.

• A control group survey of non-living wage firms in similar industries, which provides a baseline for comparison in order to isolate the impacts of the living wage.

Cover page of Advantaging Communities: Co-Benefits and Community Engagement in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund

Advantaging Communities: Co-Benefits and Community Engagement in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund


California has long been a leader in climate change policy. Considering the gridlocked nature of the United States Congress and the increasing degradation of the environment through excess carbon emissions, the need for leadership today is especially critical. California’s focus on combating climate change and promoting equitable development through a legislative agenda takes advantage of the significant investment opportunities provided by California’s Cap-and-Trade auctions. As a result, California remains a trend-setter of environmental policies for other states and even other countries around the world.

California’s ability to provide replicable models for the rest of the world depends upon the development of successful policies and programs in the initial funding cycles of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). Informing this groundbreaking approach through “best practices” of equitable green development, technical expertise and authentic community engagement is a crucial step to ensure lasting and meaningful revitalization for environmental justice communities.

Advantaging Communities focuses on environmental justice policy recommendations for GGRF investments in “disadvantaged communities” (DACs) that maintain a primary focus on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reductions, while maximizing environmental, public health and economic co-benefits, and engaging in authentic community partnerships. This report promotes targeted objectives for DACs, including quality of life improvements, greater resilience for vulnerable populations, and community-determined investments. Co-benefit maximization is sought through cross-cutting investment strategies, stronger baseline requirements and incentives for individual programs; high road labor practices; proactive anti-displacement measures and specific methods of community engagement.

This document provides a community perspective for State agencies administering the GGRF and individual programs funded by Cap-andTrade auction revenues. It also serves as a guide for community advocates to navigate the complex landscape of the GGRF, and where it most needs to address issues of social, environmental and economic equity.

Cover page of Young Workers in Los Angeles: A Snapshot

Young Workers in Los Angeles: A Snapshot


This report focuses on young people between the ages of 18 and 29 working across Los Angeles County. While most studies of young workers focus on middle-class youth experience, we have captured a diverse segment of young people in the early stages of their employment journeys and careers. Youth in Los Angeles make up nearly 20 percent of the nation’s most populated and diverse county and 1 of every 4 LA County workers is a young worker.

Cover page of The Economic Impacts of Long-Term Immigration Detention in Southern California

The Economic Impacts of Long-Term Immigration Detention in Southern California


In 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained over 477,000 immigrants at a cost of over $2 billion (or $161 per detainee, per day). Today, more than 33,000 immigrants are held in ICE custody on any given day.  These numbers indicate a sharp expansion in immigration detention.  

The Economic Impacts of Long-Term Immigration Detention in Southern California, a new IRLE report by Caitlin Patler, shows that detention of immigrants for 6 months or longer places severe strains on their families.  Lost wages from the Immigrant Detention Study sample of 562 detainees-a small fraction of the total detainee population-totaled an estimated $12 million.  More than two-thirds of detainee families include at least one citizen or Lawful Permanent Residence. Detention is creating an economic crisis for immigrant communities. Long-term immigration detention is creating an economic crisis for immigrant communities, which impacts the economic status of not only individual detainees, but of entire households.