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October 9, 2000

UC to study labor and employment issues

UC Office of the President

The University of California is launching a new multicampus research initiative aimed at studying and finding solutions for problems of employment in California and the nation.

The tentatively titled UC Institute for Labor and Employment will build on the existing Institutes of Industrial Relations at UC Berkeley and UCLA, but will draw on faculty, staff, and student resources throughout the UC system in supporting a variety of employment-related research activities.

The new initiative was funded by a $6 million appropriation in the current state budget.

"The institute will not only help develop California's highly skilled workforce," said UC President Richard C. Atkinson. "It will benefit all Californians by exploring ways in which more of our citizens, including the economically disadvantaged, can participate in the state's burgeoning economy."

Key activities of the new institute will include:

  • An annual or biannual study of the state of the California workforce.

    The focus of the study may vary: a statewide sample survey of employee households; a needs assessment study of the employment policy concerns of decision-makers and stakeholders throughout the state; a survey of the employment practices of California firms; evaluation studies of the effectiveness of existing regulations and policies affecting California workers and employers.

    The research will provide the basis for a widely accessible report to the state that interprets the results and offers policy recommendations. Although no existing California agency or firm now provides the kind of data or policy reports that are envisioned for the institute, it will partner with such organizations as the state's Economic Development Department in collecting and analyzing rich data on wage and employment trends.

  • In addition, the institute will fund a variety of projects by UC faculty and staff on labor trends and problems. The research will be competitively funded and peer-reviewed, but it will also be strongly problem- and policy-oriented, as opposed to "pure" or theory-driven research.

  • The institute will sponsor conferences and seminars on employment trends and problems and the policy issues they raise.

  • The institute will maintain a high-quality library and web-based information system to make its data and reports easily accessible to the research community, policymakers, and the public.

  • Although the central mission of the institute is research, it will work with UC faculty and instructional departments in developing UC's on- and off-campus offerings in labor and employment studies.

  • Finally, the institute will partner with local government agencies, unions, businesses, and community-based organizations in designing and promoting economic development and job training programs.

Said Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Federation of Labor: "Our economic boom has produced tremendous prosperity for some, but it has left many working people behind. We are in danger of becoming two Californias: the dot-commers and professionals who are riding the wave of the new economy and the rest of us--the teachers, the construction workers, the farm laborers, the garment workers, the retail clerks, the childcare and nursing home staff. Many of these people are immigrants and minorities who are having great difficulty making ends meet.

"The University of California should study these jobs and the problems of these workers and offer well-informed advice to policymakers in labor, business, and government. The result will be new policies, partnerships, and employment institutions that contribute to an economy in which prosperity is shared and opportunities are opened to all."

Among the legislators instrumental in getting the institute funded in the state budget were: Assembly Speaker Robert M. Hertzberg, Senate Majority Leader John Burton, and Assemblymembers Gil Cedillo, Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Dion Aroner, and Carole Migden.

Hertzberg, who led the effort to include the institute in the Assembly's budget bill, said: "This multicampus initiative by the University of California to study issues affecting working families is a timely and exciting undertaking. I am very pleased that we in the legislature were able to earmark $6 million in new UC funding for this program and that the governor approved the entire amount."

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