As an innovative and influential hub for research, education, and outreach, IRLE plays a leading role in finding solutions to urgent social and economic issues.
For many decades, the labor research and education programs at IRLE and our centers have reliably provided policymakers and stakeholders in California and beyond with high-quality, policy-relevant research on the most critical issues affecting our state’s working families. Our research informs policymaking on labor and industry standards across vital industries, from healthcare and child care to construction and the emerging gig economy. We also foster community and student engagement — particularly among Black, Indigenous, immigrant, and communities of color — so that we can nurture leadership that reflects the diversity of California.
“The research coming out of IRLE on the pressing issues facing working people today is invaluable for protecting the rights of workers and understanding California’s economy.”Congressman Mark DeSaulnier
Among other recent achievements, our policy research, technical assistance, and training programs played an important role in:
Expanding Medi-Cal to all Californians regardless of immigration status
In April 2021, the Labor Center’s health care team found that undocumented Californians make up the largest group of the uninsured, with nearly 1.3 million individuals under the age of 65 projected to be uninsured. These findings were cited repeatedly in press coverage of the ground-breaking decision by Governor Newsom and state lawmakers to expand Medi-Cal coverage to all income-eligible adults over age 50, regardless of immigration status.
Establishing California’s Secure Choice retirement program
On July 1, 2019, the State of California will launch CalSavers, an automatic retirement savings program for private sector workers in firms with five or more employees that do not offer a pension or 401(k). The program is designed to dramatically increase the number of working Californians who will retire with a nest egg to supplement Social Security and was informed by research from the Labor Center’s Retirement Security Program.
Developing a Jobs and Climate Action Plan as requested by the California legislature
Mandated in Assembly Bill 398, “Putting California on the High Road: A Jobs & Climate Action Plan for 2030” presents recommendations on how to support California’s working families and high road employers as the state transitions to a carbon-neutral economy. The report offers a roadmap to ensure that major climate change policies and programs do not reproduce existing economic inequities, and instead lead to family-supporting jobs, career pathways for disadvantaged Californians, and comprehensive redevelopment for workers and communities dependent on fossil fuel industries.
Lifting Up Labor Standards
UC Berkeley’s IRLE and Labor Center have developed national influence in research on minimum wage and other labor standards, informing local and high-level policy debates. Our research on the minimum wage and living wage has provided government entities with the best information available as they weigh competing factors in designing policy for local workers, businesses, and residents.
Shifting Media Narratives
“The Berkeley team builds on a tradition of headline-making, mind-changing research.”Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, on research from the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics
State and national media, including major outlets like The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, and CalMatters, frequently cite our studies and seek out commentary and insights from our experts.
Providing Government Testimony and Technical Assistance
Our researchers provide expert testimony and technical assistance on labor standards and other policies to a broad range of stakeholders, including state and city legislators and agencies, regional and national think tanks, community-based organizations, unions, and foundations. Notable stakeholders include:
- U.S. Department of Education
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
- U.S. Department of Labor
- U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Federal Reserve Board
- National Council of State Legislatures
- California Attorney General’s Office
- California Assembly Health Committee
Training a New Generation of Labor Scholars and Leaders
Each year, IRLE’s dissertation fellowships, graduate student research awards, and Social Sciences Research Pathways program provide funding and research experience to over 100 Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students.
Our student engagement program connects students directly with worker organizations through academic credit field study classes and paid student internships. From 2019-2022, we reached nearly 1,400 students through our classes and programs.
The Labor Center’s leadership development program helps worker and community organizations conduct their work more strategically. In the past three years, nearly 4,000 workers participated in our programs.
Explore our impact year by year.
IRLE partners with faculty and experts at UC Berkeley and beyond to foster innovative analysis and research that influences policy and improves workers’ lives. Your donation supports student programs and awards, which in turn supports new and established academics as they deliver hard evidence about inequality, the economy, and the nature of work.