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Professor Rebecca Jean Emigh

Young people often want to change the world. But when facing a gamut of social problems and inequalities around them, it’s easy to wonder how any one person can make a difference and hard to know how to take the first steps. Undergraduate students at UCLA are attuned to the challenges around them, whether in their own school and city or across the world, but how can they help bring about positive change?

Students in UCLA Sociology Professor Rebecca Jean Emigh’s Winter 2019 Fiat Lux Seminar, “Do We Make a Difference? Social Change in Theory and Practice,” not only studied sociological approaches to achieving social change, but spent the quarter putting their knowledge into practice. Each student initiated a project of their choice designed to effect real change in the world around them even after the quarter concluded. Students addressed a variety of social issues, from the local to the global, motivated by insights gleaned from social theory and empirical research.

Noting that “we get caught in what we can’t do and not what we can do,” one student worked to design a course for the Undergraduate Student Initiated Education program using psychological principles to motivate students to engage in social activism directed towards the UCLA administration. Through this course, she hopes “to show students that they’re not alone in their problems if they just reach out and start talking until someone listens.” Another student collaborated with members of the Cambodian refugee community in an effort to empower them to connect their personal and community histories to social change. “At first, many were dismissive of their own perspectives,” she explained, “but after a few weeks they began to fully engage in our dialogue about social conditions and theory.”

Other student projects included a campaign to spread awareness of the negative effects of gentrification on the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles; initiatives to promote environmentally sustainable lifestyle changes through simple household and dietary interventions; and a positivity campaign to encourage students to show kindness to one another.

Students found that not only did their projects lead to positive change, their interactions as a class had a positive effect as well. “Listening to the presentations my classmates in this class [gave] greatly inspired me,” explained one student. Said another, “This class has allowed me to not only learn from other students in the class and participate in their social change projects… but continue to find meaningful ways in my everyday life to recognize the way my actions can impact and be valuable for those around me.”

The course will be offered again in Winter 2020, so look out for more Bruins in pursuit of a better future!

Jasmin A. Young is currently a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA in the Department of African American Studies. As a historian, her research focuses on African American history, 20th Century U.S. History, and gender studies. She specializes in African American women’s history, social movements, and the Black radical tradition.

Originally from Los Angeles, Jasmin Young began her academic career at California State University, Northridge. After graduation, she moved to NYC to attend Columbia University where she received her Masters in African American Studies and worked with the late Dr. Manning Marable. With a desire to ground herself in gender theories, Dr. Young moved to the UK to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), earning a second Masters of Science from the Gender Institute.

In 2018, Dr. Young graduated with a Ph.D. in History from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her dissertation, “Black Women with Guns: A Historical Analysis of Armed Resistance 1892-1979,” offers a long history of women’s political engagement with Black militant activism from the Reconstruction to the Black Power era.

She is developing her book manuscript, Black Women with Guns: Armed Resistance in the Black Freedom Struggle, which is the first intellectual and social history of Black women’s use of armed resistance as a tool to achieve freedom in post–World War II America. While historical studies have assumed armed resistance was a male prerogative, she makes a significant intervention in the historiography by recovering a history of Black women who engaged in and advocated armed resistance from 1955-1979. Using archival research and gender theories, the book argues that Black women increasingly politicized armed resistance, both in theory and in practice, as the Black Freedom Movement shifted its objectives from integration to self-determination. Ultimately, Black Women with Guns broadens our understanding of the Black freedom struggle by expanding what we regard as political thought and action. It also reveals a more multifaceted struggle whose objectives and strategies were continually contested and evolving.

She presented her research to a packed house at UCLA’s Black Forum this past year where she fielded questions and led a great discussion on the intersection of state violence resistance and Radical Black Feminism. Dr. Young has presented her work at various national conferences including the Organization of American Historians. Her work has garnered general public attention and has been featured in the media. You can listen to her interview for the Black Agenda Report with Glen Ford HERE. She was also the historical consultant and writer for a documentary entitled, “Tracking Ida.”

Dr. Young is regarded as a rising junior scholar with cutting-edge research that connects the historical and contemporary understanding and contributions of Black Feminism. Many have attested to her accomplishments and many are eager to read her book when published. For example, fellow scholars at UCLA have said, “Jasmin’s intellectual maturity and complete dedication to research are among her most salient qualities. I was particularly impressed by how she theorized on Malcolm X’s intellectual development as influenced by the Detroit activist community, as well as when she investigated the contradictions of hyper-visibility and invisibility of Black women transnationally in hip-hop culture.”

She has been a great scholar to have in UCLA’s African American Studies Department as well as across campus. Dr. Young’s research reflects the caliber and innovation UCLA offers students, faculty, and the broader community.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Armenian_Americans_in_Los_Angeles

By Lilit Ghazaryan

UCLA Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology

Immigrant families living in the United States are often faced with the challenge of either raising their children monolingual or putting the emphasis on also teaching them their ancestral language. The Armenian community in Los Angeles lives in a bilingual and bicultural reality where they must navigate their way through at least two languages and two cultures on a daily basis. Trying to maintain one’s traditional and cultural norms as well as pass them down to the next generation is as important to the Armenian community as it is to any other minority group in the greater Los Angeles area. Language is one of the biggest aspects of heritage identity and plays a crucial role in maintaining that part of one’s self.

Within the Armenian community, parents are faced with decisions about how to facilitate their children’s language development in their heritage language. Choosing Armenian daycares, which are quite popular in Los Angeles, has been a widespread means for introducing Armenian children to their national identity, language, and traditions at a young age. Many of these Armenian daycares are home based and have been operating for 10 to 20 years caring after many children of Armenian descent.

My research interest towards the topic of raising bilingual children led me to one of these Armenian daycares. I was curious and wanted to understand how Armenian children navigated between the two languages, English and Eastern Armenian, especially during play time when the children were given creative freedom to choose what to play, who to play with, and most importantly which language to communicate with their peers. I spent around two months observing these children. The information documenting their interactions were gathered mainly through video recordings. In addition, I provided questionnaires for parents to share details regarding their family’s unique linguistic background, which included observations of their children’s language use in the home. These parents were all first-generation immigrants from the Republic of Armenia. The primary language spoken by all the families was Eastern Armenian (one of the two varieties of Armenian, the other variety is Western Armenian).

My observations exceeded my expectations as I witnessed children’s ease in manipulating language in both English and Eastern Armenian. Throughout their designated play time, the children learned from one another, efficiently tutoring each other in two languages while also developing a sense of identity as multilingual speakers. For instance, children translated words and/or phrases for each other; switched the language of dialogue based on the proficiency of the listener, and asked each other questions about both languages including specific meanings to given words. All of these speech practices showcased their metalinguistic awareness (speaker’s awareness of the languages they speak) of their own linguistic abilities as well as the proficiency of their peers in either of the languages. By focusing on the metalinguistic aspect of their communications, my goal is to show the advantages of growing up as simultaneous bilinguals, which helps children develop a strong sense towards the linguistic nuances earlier then their monolingual peers. My aim is to illustrate the masterful ways children play with language and incorporate language in play, while simultaneously developing their linguistic skills and understanding of language politics and practices.

This project brings awareness to the underrepresented community of the Armenian American diaspora and fills the gap within the field of similar studies conducted with children. It also highlights the important role children play in their own language socialization and the socialization of their peers. Although this study concentrates on the Armenian community, it opens a window into the world of immigrant children growing up in the linguistically dynamic city of Los Angeles navigating their way through two (in some cases even more) languages while also developing an understanding of their own identity as a multilingual person. As I continue to develop this project further with the goal of co-authoring a publication with Dr. Erica Cartmill, I hope that my work will be useful not only to scholars, but also policy makers, language teachers, parents, and caretakers. My goal is to show the vibrant linguistic environment that children grow up in, highlight the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism, and encourage the maintenance of the heritage language within the diaspora communities.

 

Lilit Ghazaryan is a graduate student in the UCLA Department of Anthropology. Her fields of study are Linguistic Anthropology, Language Socialization, and Multilingualism. Her research focus includes metalinguistic awareness, peer-group socialization among children, and the Armenian-American community in Los Angeles.

 

Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles is known for many things, such as warm weather, beautiful beaches, heavy traffic, busy airport, Hollywood, the entertainment business, and ethnic and cultural diversity. It is also a place that houses so much rich history. History of people and communities making meaning and home in L.A. for so many years. South Los Angeles in particular is an area that has been overlooked, yet has stories to tell. These stories have long been silenced, ignored, or misrepresented.

More recently, gentrification, brought hugely by the Crenshaw/LAX Metro rail line is contributing to the push out of long-time residents and businesses. It’s changing the area at the heart of Black Los Angeles, its population, and its culture to where much of the history of the community is at risk of being erased. As a response to this neglect by the city, local community members, leaders, activists, academics, planners, and artists have come together to create Destination Crenshaw. Among the team of experts who are excited to see this project succeed are UCLA’s Dean of Social Sciences, Darnell Hunt and Professor Marcus Hunter, Chair of the Department of African American Studies. Professor Hunter conducted a research project on Black L.A. that has contributed to the creation of Destination Crenshaw.

Destination Crenshaw is an art project that will be an experience, free for the public to enjoy. It will follow the LAX Metro rail line along Crenshaw Boulevard between 48th and 60th streets. It will be a 1.3-mile open-air museum that will capture themes such as Afro-futurism in South L.A. and community resiliency as well as recognize the unique history of African Americans in the area. It is a hope that this project can help to inform outsiders that there is much to be loved and appreciated in South L.A. as well as reignite community pride for Angelenos about the place they call home.

To learn more, read the Los Angeles Times article HERE.

To read an earlier post about the UCLA research that contributed to Destination Crenshaw, click HERE.

On October 11-12, 2018, the California Center for Population Research (CCPR) commemorated its 20th anniversary. Its first session on Thursday engaged population research in Los Angeles on families and neighborhoods, schools, eviction and homelessness, and social policy. The Friday research symposium showcased an accomplished and collaborative group of CCPR alumni from around the nation. This event highlighted the exceptional research of faculty and former students within the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA. For more information about the event, check out the CCPR Research Symposium_Final Schedule.

The California Center for Population Research (CCPR) was established in 1998 and has since, been a leading research center for research and training in demography. CCPR is comprised of over 90 active faculty researchers from an array of academic disciplines, such as epidemiology, public policy, economics, sociology, and public welfare. CCPR researchers span several schools, including the College of Letters and Sciences, the Division of Social Sciences, the School of Public Health, the School of Medicine, and the School of Public Affairs, as well as academic departments within UCLA.

 

Dr. Karen Umemoto is a professor in the Department of Asian American Studies and the Luskin School.  She is also a UCLA alum, who has some big plans as the new Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.  We recently met up with Dr. Umemoto to learn about her experiences growing up in LA and how that has shaped her work to affect change in her home city.

LASS:     Thank you for joining us today. Please tell us about yourself.

KU:         I’m a third-generation, Japanese American, born and raised in Los Angeles. I’m a proud Bruin, having started my college education here at UCLA and then returning for my master’s degree in Asian American Studies, and then returning now, after 22 years of teaching at the University of Hawaii. I’m happy to be back.

LASS:     I know you did some really important and impactful community-based research work while you were there. Can you talk about that and how you’re bringing that work to UCLA?

KU:         Yes, I have a strong interest in community-based development and I worked primarily with Native Hawaiian communities over the past 22 years while in Hawaii. I was heavily involved in building community-university partnerships, some lasting the entire two decades. I gained a lot of lessons there, about how people at the university can engage with communities in a way that is empowering for them, that is mutually beneficial in terms of a co-learning process, and that leaves a long-lasting, positive impact in communities. I’d like to apply that through my position as a faculty member, as an instructor, and as the Director, here at UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

LASS:     What plans do you envision for the UCLA Asian American Studies Center?

KU:         As the new Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair of the Asian American Studies Center, I’m working with our staff and faculty to launch a couple initiatives in the spirit of being relevant to the world and to our communities. One is a digital media initiative. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge and we’ve collected a lot of primary source materials over the course of the last 50 years since we were established. I see our role as helping to push that out to the public over the next 50 years. We’ll continue the research and collection of historically important collections, but I really see the need to utilize the latest technologies and digital media to make this knowledge in Asian American and Ethnic Studies more accessible to the public and to the world.

The second initiative is focused on public policy. Though there is important work on Asian American and Pacific Islander policy issues being done at many universities, I’d like to see UCLA play a role in collaborating with others to further policy relevant research on Asian American and Pacific Islander populations. We have the critical mass of applied researchers here at UCLA. We have good models for policy centers that we can learn from. And, we have the strong infrastructure of UCLA and its standing in the public to be able to mobilize research efforts to make an impact on issues affecting our communities both in the realm of national public discourse and in local policymaking.

LASS:     What about your own personal research interests?

KU:         I’m working on several book projects, one based on the juvenile justice research and reform work I did in Hawaii and another on the history of urban renewal in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.  I’m also very interested in race relations in Los Angeles, which I’ve done research on in the past.

To me, community development issues and race relations are very interconnected. I grew up in Gardena in the 1970s, which was named the most diverse community in the country at that time. And the 1970s was one of the most prosperous times in Southern California. Race relations was relatively positive compared to other places and other periods. So I grew up in somewhat of a bubble, thinking that race relations with as good everywhere else. And when I left Gardena, I realized that it wasn’t.

Fast forward to graduate school when there was growing controversy over the concentration of liquor stores in South LA, many of which were Korean owned. And there was the horrific incident in which Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by a Korean American grocer, which was a precursor to the civil unrest in 1992. I remember sitting in my dorm room when the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating were acquitted. And I watched my community and my city go up in flames.  I had already been planning to study racial conflict at that time, but this sealed it.

So, when I returned to Los Angeles to do my dissertation work, I was really committed to understand racial conflict—how it escalates and how we could better handle it. But I was looking for a way to study day-to-day racial conflict, not necessarily explosive incidents, because it’s the day-to-day conflicts that then build up to these explosive moments. The most violent form of everyday racial conflict at that time was interracial gang violence, so I ended up studying a gang war between the Culver City Boys and the Shoreline Crips. I did a three-year ethnographic study of the gang war, which resulted in a book called The Truce: Lessons from an LA Gang War.

I think that many of the lessons from that gang war and from police and community responses to it are still very relevant today. I think we see a lot of problems today that stem from that same phenomenon where people are not able to see the world from other people’s point of view and work more collaboratively to address controversies that lead to racial tensions.

“I’m reminded of the period of history where my parents were incarcerated in US concentration camps during World War II. I think about all of the things that lead up to their incarceration and you see many of the same things happening today—the untethering of discourse from material realities, the demonization of different people from the top echelons of government.” – Dr. Umemoto

LASS:     So what types of challenges do you see out there and how do you hope to address it?

KU:         I think there are three major challenges many others here at UCLA, and I, are concerned about. One is the growing wealth gap and economic inequality of opportunities, between the haves and have not’s.

The second is the lack of better opportunities through which individuals and communities can engage in the civic decision making processes in ways that build capacity and lead to greater social justice.

And third, I think because of the tenor of national politics and national political discourse, we have a problem of people at the very top levels of government playing up racial divisions and implementing policies that target people of color and demean people of color and instill fear in communities of color.

I’m reminded of the period of history where my parents were incarcerated in US concentration camps during World War II. I think about all of the things that lead up to their incarceration and you see many of the same things happening today—the untethering of discourse from material realities, the demonization of different people from the top echelons of government. It’s the demonization of entire groups of people by those in the top levels of government, and the fanning of fear amongst the majority population about these groups, tapping the economic precarity that people feel, that leads to tragic consequences for the most vulnerable.

LASS:     So with all that in mind, what’s the impact, through your own work and through the Center, that you’re hoping to make?

KU:         I think one way that we can contribute to addressing these problems is to push out Asian American Studies and Ethnic Studies—disseminating knowledge and educating students and the broader public about Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other historically marginalized communities. If we can nurture greater empathy, greater understanding, and greater respect towards all populations across society, then and only then is civic democracy and greater societal justice possible.

LASS:     With that in mind, any parting words?

KU:         Just that this is the only job I would have moved back home for. UCLA is the only university that I would have been interested in. I’m a strong believer in public education. I’m a product of the LA Unified School District. I’m a product of the California State University system and the University of California system. I think we play such a critical role in educating the next generation of thought leaders, changemakers, and citizens of the world who can make a positive impact. I think this is the right place to be at this time.

LASS:     That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your work and experiences with us.

 

Dr. Karen Umemoto was interviewed by Mike Nguyen, an assistant editor and contributor to LA Social Science.

By Kristella Montiegel

PhD Student, Sociology, UCLA

It’s estimated that California educates 14,000 Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (D/HH) students annually. D/HH children have unique needs towards the successful development of communication abilities and social skills, and federal and state laws have established guidelines for assisting families and educators in successfully meeting these needs. One guideline is the requirement of a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), which involves a team of members assessing children’s communication needs and placing them in the least restrictive educational environment possible. Today, most states have laws mandating hearing screenings and services for newborns. California implemented these requirements in 2000, making all diagnosed children eligible for D/HH education programs.

While there are several options for young children who are deemed eligible for D/HH educational services, two options are considered the main approaches to education: the American Sign Language (ASL) option and the Auditory-Verbal option. However, these approaches have competing ideologies that are commonly at the center of debate about which is the better approach. The ASL approach, rooted in Deaf culture, champions signing as language equality and teaches it as the primary form of communication. Alternatively, the Auditory-Verbal approach does not teach ASL, and instead emphasizes the development of spoken language with the goal of transitioning children into mainstream society.

As a sociology student whose research interests lie primarily in the subfield of language and social interaction, I became interested in what the ASL/Auditory-Verbal approach looks like ‘on the ground,’ or, the ways in which these approaches are accomplished in the institutional setting of a D/HH preschool classroom. I was given the opportunity to pursue these interests in November of 2017, when I gained access as a volunteer and student observer in an Auditory-Verbal preschool classroom of an LA school district. I have been volunteering on a weekly basis, assisting in the daily routines and taking ethnographic notes on the learning activities and naturally occurring interactions between the students and classroom educators.

I quickly learned that a key component of the Auditory-Verbal approach is a hyper-emphasis on vocalization. Speech permeates all activities of the school day: free play, meals, and lessons. The educators encourage the students to “talk through” any activity in which they’re engaged, whether speech would be strictly necessary or not, including episodes of bad behavior. Vocalization is not only prioritized, it’s also managed with preferences, such as using complete sentences, avoiding baby-talk, and knowing the appropriate times to say certain things. Talk is the desired means for students to adequately participate and demonstrate their competence in lessons, even if their understanding of something is or could be made clear nonverbally. My curiosity grew: What does all of this vocalization in the D/HH preschool do for the children and their families?            

Students’ spoken language is monitored by the class educators and school specialists who gather assessments for periodic IEP reviews. Thus, the value of a student’s use of speech in the class transcends beyond the immediate context in that it’s consequential for their overall IEP progress. Upon graduation from preschool, parents and the IEP team must decide among options for kindergarten, which typically involves general education integration to various degrees. I began to wonder: If the Auditory-Verbal class is specialized for children who are eligible for D/HH services, yet conducts learning and literacy development according to social life in mainstream society, then how do the educators facilitate student participation in a way that is sensitive to the children’s needs while also preparing for mainstreaming?

I’m exploring these questions on talk in an Auditory-Verbal class as an ethnographic project for my Master’s thesis, keeping an emic (or participant) perspective toward the cultural context of the Auditory-Verbal classroom, so I try to always consider what things mean for the educators and children themselves. Importantly, in conducting this research, I by no means am claiming the Auditory-Verbal approach as somehow more advantageous than the ASL approach. Rather, for purposes of time, I’ve chosen not to make this a comparative research project, and am choosing to focus on the Auditory-Verbal approach since I’m already a volunteer. I’ll continue volunteering in the class for the 2018-2019 academic year, and will ideally extend the study into a larger project involving video-recorded classroom interactions, as well as video-recorded home visits to explore how and to what extent the children are participating in family interactions. I hope the impact of my research will address important factors that influence the language practices and social-skill development of D/HH children, in order to develop a communicative framework for educational support both in the classroom and in their homes.

Meeting the needs of D/HH children anywhere has its challenges. In LA, some of these challenges are exacerbated by the fact that the LA Unified School district is large, services providers are spread out across the district, and the cost of living is high. Parents are often working across town, and thus getting to all of the relevant appointments (including school IEPs) is challenging. Teachers face an extremely heterogeneous class with multiple language backgrounds, and different socioeconomic statuses and understandings of the situation. In my future work, I hope to explore how the unique LA context shapes the D/HH classroom.

 

Kristella Montiegel (BA Department of Communication, Media and Culture at Coastal Carolina University; MS, Department of Communication at Portland State University) is a PhD student in UCLA’s Department of Sociology, and the Coordinator for the UCLA Center for Language, Interaction, and Culture (CLIC).

Photo Credit: Veena Hampapur, UCLA Labor Center

By Kent Wong

Director, UCLA Labor Center

The Supreme Court decision in the Janus case is being celebrated by the Trump Administration as a major setback for the US labor movement, one that will undermine the last bastion of strength for unions who still represent millions of workers in the public sector. However, this conservative attack not only exposes the Supreme Court’s pro-corporate bias, but also may serve as a wake-up call for unions and workers who are fed up with growing economic inequality and attacks by the Trump administration on workers, women, and people of color.

While the 5-4 Supreme Court conservative majority claims to uphold the first amendment rights of workers, in fact this decision promotes corporate interests and attempts to silence the collective voice of workers through their unions. The timing of Janus is not an accident. For the first time in our history, the number of union members in the public sector is greater than in the private sector. Fully 30 percent of government and education workers are unionized versus only 6 percent of workers in private industries.[1] The public sector is the last piece of our economy where family medical benefits, paid sick and vacation days, and pension plans are still the norm. The Janus decision threatens these benefits and could further undermine the country’s dwindling middle class.

As the actions of the Trump Administration, the Republican-controlled Congress, and the conservative Supreme Court hurt the vast majority of working people, increasingly more Americans believe that corporate America is not working in their interests and are fighting back. Public sector unions are ideally positioned to link and gain strength from the broader social movements that are rising up to oppose the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies, Muslim ban, opposition to women’s right to choose, and racially offensive rhetoric and actions. Public section unions represent large numbers of people of color and women, due in part to discriminatory practices in the private sector. The presidents of some of the largest public sector unions, such as the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Service Employees International Union, are all women. And all three women have been outspoken advocates for not only worker rights but also women’s rights, immigrant rights, and racial justice.

The largest group of organized workers in the country are teachers and education workers, and their demand for quality public education has been front and center. In reaction to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s attempts to privatize public schools, teachers have organized actions in Virginia, West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Colorado, all demanding better wages and working conditions as well as increased funding for public education.

While Trump gives massive tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy elite, we have also witnessed successful campaigns to raise the minimum wage and to oppose wage theft, from California to New York. Unions led the fight for the $15 an hour minimum wage in Los Angeles and California, a victory that will benefit millions of low-wage workers.

The Los Angeles labor movement has emerged as a focal point for the new American labor movement. Some of the most dynamic labor organizing campaigns in the country are happening in Los Angeles, and many are led by women, workers of color, and immigrants. For janitors, hotel, home care, and car wash workers, unions have inspired a new generation of activism and built powerful alliances between unions, community organizations, students, and people of faith.

The renewed spirit of organizing in Los Angeles is building on a strong labor history tradition that began long before there were legal protections for unions. Without labor laws to protect them, unions fought for the eight-hour day, worker’s compensation, social security benefits, unemployment insurance, pensions, and health and safety regulations. Unions fought for and built the middle class, which is now being threatened by corporate policies to reward the wealthy elite and undermine the interests of millions of working poor.

Undoubtedly, it is a challenging time for unions across our nation, but we can take lessons from the LA organizing playbook to organize new and existing workers. We can continue to expand diverse coalitions of working people who embrace worker rights, immigrant rights, gender equality, and unionism. And with the November 2018 elections around the corner, voters will have an opportunity to challenge Trump’s campaign to “Make America Great Again” for the corporate elite.

 

Kent Wong is the director of the UCLA Labor Center, where he teaches courses in labor studies and Asian American studies.  He previously served as staff attorney for the Service Employees International Union. He was the founding president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the founding president of the United Association for Labor Education, and currently is vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

 

[1] “Union Members Survey,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 19, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm.

Released by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and the UCLA Labor Center

By Abel Valenzuela Jr.

Professor and Director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

Last week, UCLA Labor Center researchers Saba Waheed, Lucero Herrera, Ana Luz Gonzalez-Vasquez, Janna Shadduck-Hernández, Tia Koonse and David Leynov published our institute’s latest study, More Than a Gig, on the nascent but rapidly growing transportation networking companies such as Uber and Lyft. After reading the report and participating in its release, I am struck by its findings and reminded of research that I undertook almost two decades ago on day labor—at the time, a growing and ubiquitous labor market that we knew little about other than through anecdotes, newspaper accounts or personal experience. My research contributed to discussions and debates about nonstandard and informal labor markets and how worker centers might serve as important intermediaries to improve conditions for day laborers. Adding empiricism, rigorous research, and analysis to debates on day labor and precarious labor markets moved the policy discussion forward in more inclusive and thoughtful ways.

Similarly, the ride-sharing industry is well known among Angelenos as we navigate our city’s sprawl; balance the confluence of space, time and traffic; and reduce our stress by letting someone else do the driving. But up until yesterday, we knew little about the labor market conditions of the ride-sharing market. It is my hope that these findings will begin a policy dialogue about how to improve conditions for these workers.

The findings of More Than a Gig  are significant and highlight three important patterns:

First, ride-hailing is neither supplemental nor temporary, and most drivers report that it is their full-time occupation. Full-time drivers tend to be older, come from an immigrant background, use the job to support their families and principally participate in this market for its flexibility.

Second, the study finds that costs of working as an Uber or Lyft driver decrease what are already mediocre earnings as drivers pay for car maintenance; car purchases or leases; cell phone mounts; floor mats; seat covers; and even passenger amenities like bottled water, mints or cell phone chargers to improve reviews and maintain employment security.

Finally, the study highlights how drivers are structurally and legally limited by the fact that they are independent contractors. Their nonemployee status releases ride-sharing companies from any responsibility for the driver’s wages, work conditions, benefits or workplace protections and safety.

Opportunities to organize workers in this growing industry will be difficult for numerous reasons, not least of which is drivers’ invisibility as they navigate the streets of Los Angeles for work. The lack of a brick and motor workplace, worker center or commissary makes the collective organizing of workers in this market even more difficult. The demand side of this industry is mostly unregulated, though municipalities, including many in Europe, are moving to regulate the industry with surprisingly positive impacts.

Other possible policy prescriptions—including encouraging fair, accessible, and equitable uses of technology work platforms and organizing with existing taxi collectives and emerging ride-sharing worker centers—could be promising first steps in increasing ride-sharing and taxi driver solidarity and in improving the ride-hailing industry.

Download the full report HERE.

Abel Valenzuela Jr. is Professor of Urban Planning and Chicana/o Studies, Director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Immigration Policy. Professor Valenzuela is one of the leading national experts on day labor and has published numerous articles and technical reports on the subject. His research interests include precarious labor markets, worker centers, immigrant workers, and Los Angeles. His academic base is urban sociology, planning, and labor studies. 

 

 

We call homelessness a crisis in Los Angeles because we increasingly see the homeless in our midst every day. Yet, the invisible crisis has been with us for years, affecting even many UCLA students and staff. New Los Angeles City and County initiatives promise to meet the challenge of homelessness head on, but success will depend on the quality of evidence and information informing these investments. We believe UCLA can and should play a role in this effort, and that begins with learning more about the crisis and the response, and laying out a research agenda.

To galvanize transdisciplinary research and engage our campus with efforts across LA County, UCLA will host Professor Dennis Culhane of the University of Pennsylvania from May 21 – 24, 2018.  One of the nation’s most influential homelessness scholars, Professor Culhane pioneered the use of homeless management information systems (HMIS) and integrated data systems to study homelessness, and generated much of the evidence base that led to permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing policies. Professor Culhane will lead a week-long series of activities to help focus UCLA’s research and student communities on one the most pressing humanitarian crises facing our city.

The homelessness week is supported by a grant from the Office for Interdisciplinary and Cross Campus Affairs and co-sponsored by the Fielding School of Public Health, California Center for Population Research, and the California Policy Lab. Organized by Professors Randall Kuhn (Community Health Sciences) and Till von Wachter (Economics) the week includes four major events also described on the event website.

First, the week will kick off with a public lecture by Professor Culhane on “Meeting the Challenge of Homelessness” on May 21st. The lecture will be opened by Dean Jody Heymann from the Fielding School of Public Health. In this lecture, Culhane will review the national situation, including progress and continued hurdles. He will also describe unique challenges for cities like LA, where many homeless are unsheltered.

The second event is a roundtable discussion on the “Homelessness Research Agenda in LA and Beyond” on May 22nd.  For students, faculty, researchers, and others interested in having a direct impact on homelessness, this Roundtable will describe current City and County research priorities and unmet needs, and will highlight areas for UCLA contribution. The roundtable will be introduced by Dean Gary Segura from the Luskin School of Public Policy, and includes Molly Rysman, Deputy for Homelessness for the Third Supervisory District of the County, who will talk about the County’s research needs on homelessness; Janey Rountree, Executive Director of the California Policy Lab, who will talk about the new Countywide Homelessness Research Policy Initiative; Michael Lens, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy; and Till von Wachter, Professor of Economics, who will talk about opportunities policy-oriented research on homelessness at UCLA.

On Wednesday, May 23rd, Professor Culhane will lead a seminar on “The Promise of Integrated Data Systems for Social Science Research.” Culhane will review the legal, ethical, scientific and economic challenges of interagency data sharing, as well as systematic efforts including policy reform and inter-agency collaboration to overcome these challenges. He will also review important new integrated data systems initiatives in LA County and California.

Finally, the week will conclude with a mini-conference on “Transdisciplinary Homelessness Research: Measure H and Beyond.” Topics include pathways into and out of homelessness over the life-course. Articulating new service delivery models and data collection, including mobile phones as a platform for outreach. The conference will also feature a round table on how to sustain the interdisciplinary conversation through a campus-wide research network, regular working groups, and joint research projects.

Schedule of Events of Homelessness Week

Public Lecture: Meeting the Challenge of Homelessness

Monday, May 21, 2018
6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
UCLA NPI Auditorium CHS C8-183

Register

Roundtable: Homeless Research Agenda in L.A. and Beyond

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
UCLA Public Affairs Building, Rm. 4240
Social Mixer to follow: UCLA Public Affairs Building, Luskin Commons Patio 3rd Floor

Register

Seminar: The Promise of Integrated Data Systems for Social Science Research

Wednesday, May 23, 2018
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
UCLA Public Affairs Building, Rm. 4240

Conference: Transdisciplinary Homelessness Research: Measure H and Beyond

Thursday, May 24, 2018
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
UCLA Public Affairs Building, Rm. 4240

 

For more information about Homelessness Week, click HERE

For more information about the California Policy Lab (CPL), click HERE

For more information about the California Center for Population Research (CCPR), click HERE