At the end of World War II, when organized labor in the United States was at the peak of its political power and influence, many universities around the country established industrial relations units. Here in California in 1945, Governor Earl Warren established two such units on the campuses of UC Berkeley and UCLA. The Institute’s founding director was Clark Kerr, who was later Chancellor of Berkeley and President of the University.

Then known as the Institute of Industrial Relations, IRLE had an initial focus on fostering labor-management cooperation. Interested faculty from several academic departments and schools formed a multi-disciplinary approach for educating students about the importance of labor issues, the role of unions, and the challenges facing the rapidly growing economy of California.

Photo: Clerical Conference at the Institute for Industrial Relations, November, 1974. Credit: Cathy Cade.

Over nearly eight decades, IRLE’s focus has expanded to include a wide range of labor research and education programs.

History of Our Centers

1964 — Labor Center

Photo: Residential Training Program UC Berkeley Labor Center, 1969

In 1964, in an agreement with the California Labor Federation, the Regents of the University of California established the Centers for Labor Research and Education, also known as Labor Centers, at UC Berkeley and UCLA. For nearly 60 years, the Labor Center has forged collaboration between the university and the labor community, trained new generations of labor leaders, and provided high-quality, policy-relevant research.

1969 — California Public Employee Relations Program (CPER)

The California Public Employee Relations Program (CPER) began in 1969 in response to requests from management and labor representatives for assistance in dealing with the special problems involved in public sector employment relations.

Concern in the field was initially prompted by passage of a local government employee relations statute. In following years, three more bargaining laws were enacted covering public schools, state, and higher education employees; a state agency was established to administer the latter statutes.

CPER has adapted as public sector bargaining has evolved. It serves the changing needs of those who participate in the bargaining process and those engaged in public policymaking.

1999 — Center for the Study of Child Care Employment

A group of smiling educators on a lawn hold a banner reading "Worthy Wages for Child Care 1-800-U-R-Worthy"

Since 1999, the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) has been uniquely focused on the people who care for and educate young children.

CSCCE’s roots go back almost 50 years to the previous generations of child care teacher activism on compensation, which started in the 1970s. CSCCE was founded by Marcy Whitebook, who began as an infant/toddler and preschool teacher, then joined with educators to establish the Child Care Employee Project (CCEP). CCEP served as coordinator for the emerging teacher-led national compensation movement dedicated to securing rights, raises, and respect for educators and the necessary public financing to improve child care jobs and services. CCEP helped teachers and providers in communities across the country to document their own wages and working conditions and led the National Child Care Staffing Study, which helped to launch the Worthy Wage Campaign and draw attention to the needs of the ECE workforce. 

CSCCE has built on the teacher-centered tradition of research and policy that CCEP began.

2017 — California Policy Lab

California government agencies spend billions of dollars on programs that support vulnerable people. Though these agencies collect substantial data about their programs and the people they serve, they often lack the resources, data infrastructure, or research expertise to use this data to inform policy decisions. 

The California Policy Lab (CPL) launched in 2017 at UC Berkeley and UCLA to help fill these gaps by partnering with state and local agencies to conduct empirical analysis that moves at the speed of policymaking. CPL researchers and government partners conduct scientific analysis to find out what works and to help bring solutions to scale.