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By Janna Shadduck-Hernández, Project Director, and Marisol Granillo Arce, Graduate Student Researcher

UCLA Labor Center

On October 24, 2019, filmmakers, photographers, poets, and musicians of color presented their original works on the resilience and power of immigrant working families in Los Angeles. The exhibit, including photos and short film presentations, is an initiative of the UCLA Labor Center’s Parent Worker Project, an applied research project that lifts up low-wage working parents as experts on their children’s education and communities.

Working Families in Focus is the first photo exhibit and film shorts program directed by Los Angeles artists of color to capture the lives of janitors, garment and domestic workers at their unions or worker centers, along with their children. Wil Prada, UCLA alum, filmmaker, and photographer, curated the exhibit highlighting nine themes: 1) The Parent Worker Project, 2) Unions and Worker Centers, 3) Tutoring, 4) Accessing Institutions of Higher Learning: A Public University Belongs to the Public, 5) Working-Class Parents Care about Children’s Education, 6) What Motivates Me Is My Children, 7) Parents as First Teachers, 8) Celebrating and Recognizing Parents’ Efforts, and 9) Connecting Communities. Parents, children, workers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers came together to share their common experiences and give visibility and dignity to the contributions of low-wage working families.

The UCLA Labor Center obtained a grant in 2014 from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation for an initiative to focus on early education activities with local janitors and their children through Building Skills Partnership and SEIU-United Service Workers West. We documented the project’s success in “Janitors are Parents Too! Promoting Parent Advocacy in the Labor Movement,” a chapter in the Beacon Press publication Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out!: Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement. As a result, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation renewed its commitment to support similar programming with low-wage garment and domestic workers and their children. Using a train-the-trainer model, the second phase of the project trained parent workers to confidently talk with their peers about navigating the school system and accessing community resources such as libraries, museums, financial institutions, and specialized programs, putting parents at the center of current public education reform and leadership advocacy efforts.

As a compliment to the project, the team organized a formal tutoring project through which selected UCLA undergraduate students received scholarships to tutor garment and domestic workers’ children while the children’s parents participated in adult education classes and training sessions.

The Working Families in Focus exhibit took place at the UCLA Labor Center’s downtown community site and was sponsored by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Los Angeles Garment Worker Center, IDEPSCA-Mujeres en Acción, Building Skills Partnership, and the UCLA Center for Mexican Studies. Please come to the UCLA Labor Center at 675 S. Park View Street to view this powerful exhibit, or contact Janna Shadduck-Hernández at jshernandez@irle.ucla.edu for further information.

Janna Shadduck-Hernández, Ed.D. is a project director at the UCLA Labor Center and teaches for the UCLA labor studies major and in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Her research and teaching focus on developing culturally relevant, participatory educational models with first- and second-generation university students, community members, and youth. Her research and policy work also examine the organizing efforts of low-wage immigrant workers to combat labor and workplace violations.

Marisol Granillo Arce is a graduate student researcher with the Labor Center’s Parent Worker project and a UCLA MSW and MPH candidate. She is also a trained facilitator of the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors bilingual curriculum to promote early childhood parent engagement to advance the long-term academic success of low-income K-12 students.

Courtesy: https://laane.org/blog/campaigns/grocery-retail/

On Saturday, March 2nd, the front page of the Business section of the Los Angeles Times ran a story titled, “Erratic hours are the norm for workers in retailing. Can Los Angeles buck the trend?” The article described the unfair ways large retail businesses take advantage of their employees, exploiting them for their labor. Inconsistent work schedules, last minute time changes, decreased hours, low-wages, no compensation, and no opportunity to speak up are just a few examples of the mistreatment and frustrations retail employees endure.

In fact, the article highlighted the UCLA Labor Center for their research on erratic scheduling practices. Some of their findings show that 84% of retail workers in Los Angeles lack a stable schedule and 80% of them are left in the dark, notified of their shifts only a couple days to a week in advance. These erratic changes can cause employees to feel increased levels of stress. A lack of work hours means less money to pay bills, and inconsistent hours makes it hard to commit to other interests/responsibilities outside of the work space.

The Los Angeles City Council has presented a “Fair Workweek” measure that advocates for thousands of retail employees. Some of these measures includes a more stable working schedule that requires at least two weeks notice, more employee autonomy, access to increased working hours, and protection from “clopening” (closing late and opening early the next day). It is the hope that once changes are made within the retail business, similar measures can also apply to other industries such as restaurants, and warehouses.

For further information, read the Los Angeles Times article HERE.

To download the UCLA Labor Center’s report Hour Crisis: Unstable Schedules in the Los Angeles Retail Sector, click HERE.

By Betty Hung, Staff Director, and Kent Wong, Director, UCLA Labor Center

Thirty-four thousand Los Angeles teachers launched a six-day strike from January 14 to 22, 2019, impacting five hundred thousand students and their families. On February 22, the UCLA Labor Center hosted a public educational forum with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Alex Caputo-Pearl and Secretary/Chief Negotiator Arlene Inouye to examine key lessons from the strike and the implications for the future of the labor movement and public education. Some of the critical takeaways include the importance of collective teacher organizing and action to build power; building long-term authentic partnerships with parents, students, and community organizations; and increasing the capacity of the union at every stage to utilize a strike as a powerful nonviolent tool for change.

UTLA approached negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) from a framework focused on “bargaining for the common good,” which resulted in contract provisions that expand green space at schools, limit random searches of students that have a racially disparate impact, and support immigrant students and families. In addition, the teachers won a 6 percent wage increase, class size reduction, and increased staffing with more on-site nurses, librarians, and counselors.

Moreover, UTLA’s strategic organizing approach led to a thousand new union members—this, after the US Supreme Court Janus decision, which forces public employee unions to negotiate on behalf of all bargaining unit members but prohibits unions from collecting “fair-share” fees from those who do not choose to be union members. UTLA’s organizing victory highlights the potential of the labor movement to organize and build power even in a post-Janus world.

The focus of the first teachers’ strike in Los Angeles in thirty years was not on wages and benefits but on quality public education. Teachers were protesting the defunding of public schools, class sizes of forty to forty-five students per teacher, and the critical lack of essential school personnel, including nurses, librarians, and counselors. Forty years ago, California ranked number one in the nation in per pupil funding; today, California is forty-third in per pupil funding and forty-eighth in classroom size, even though the state has the fifth largest economy in the world. The decline in public schools has a disproportionate impact on people of color and the poor; ninety percent of LA public school students are racial minorities, and 72 percent qualify for reduced-cost lunch programs.

The defunding of our schools is no accident. Since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which limited taxes on real estate, billions of dollars have been transferred from public coffers to the largest corporate landowners in California. In addition, billions have been siphoned away from public schools to the growing number of private charter schools. National corporations supporting the charter school movement invested millions to elect a pro-charter majority to the LAUSD board, who in turn hired Austin Beutner as LA superintendent, a hedge fund multimillionaire with no experience in public education.

The impact of UTLA’s successful strike continues to resonate. Inspired by Los Angeles, teachers in Oakland and Denver have since gone on strike. The LAUSD school board voted to support a moratorium on future charter schools. And next year, a ballot initiative scheduled for the November election that if passed would curtail the impact of Proposition 13 and restore funds to California public schools.

Betty Hung is the staff director for the UCLA Labor Center. She previously directed the employment law unit at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and, as the policy director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, cofounded the multiracial College for All Coalition. She is the co-chair of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and also serves on the boards of the Economic Roundtable and CLEAN Car Wash Worker Center.

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 and of the United Association for Labor Education and currently is vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

 

By Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, Project Director & Saba Waheed, Research Director

Black people are leaving Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Black Worker Center noticed the trend while doing community organizing work in the area and teamed up with the UCLA Labor Center to conduct a study. Together, they analyzed 2010-2014 data from the American Community Survey and found that employment conditions have a lot to do with it. While the Black community was once a thriving part of L.A.’s landscape and remains integral to the county’s cultural and economic life, they are in the throes of a bona fide jobs crisis – and concern for Black workers has only intensified in response to the new administration.

Here are some of the study’s findings:

  • Black people are significantly more educated than previous generations, yet experience a lower labor participation rate and a significantly higher unemployment rate than white workers
  • Black workers are underrepresented in growing industry sectors and professional jobs and have lower rates in manager and supervisory positions
  • Whether working full or part time, Black workers earn only 75% of what White workers earn (for Black women, the wage gap is even more severe)
  • The Black community’s share of the total population declined from 13% to 8%

Based on their research, the UCLA Labor Center, Los Angeles Black Worker Center and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment released the 2017 report Ready to Work, Uprooting Inequity: Black Workers in Los Angeles and a follow-up California study, as Black Angelenos still make up over one third of the state’s Black population. The report argues for the need to stabilize Black families and communities through community-driven public policy and corporate practice change that create good-paying, quality jobs accessible to Black workers.

Its release was also coupled with the launch of a local anti-discrimination enforcement campaign called #HealBlackFutures that would support policy efforts to respond to discrimination complaints (additional research supported this need for local enforcement).

As a leading global city, Los Angeles already has an important history of worker organizations and movements that have struggled to close the equity gap, increase the minimum wage, secure paid sick-days and provide a platform for worker voices. Since the release of this report, there has been an unprecedented display of Black working-class activism and mobilization in Los Angeles County.

In addition, the governor of California also directed the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to establish a civil rights advisory group composed of relevant state representatives, community advocates, employers and employees to study the feasibility of authorizing local governments to help enforce anti-discrimination statutes.

Studying Black workers in Los Angeles provides a helpful foundation off of which to both produce new research and develop policy initiatives addressing the state of U.S. labor in general. Evaluating the feasibility and clarifying the steps that local authorities are taking to remedy civil rights violations will be critical in curbing unfair treatment at work both in Los Angeles and on a larger scale.

The Los Angeles Black Worker Center is a grassroots action center in South Central Los Angeles dedicated to expanding access to quality jobs, addressing employment discrimination and improving jobs that employ Black workers. The Center’s vision is to build a world where Black workers thrive in an equitable economy that sustains family and community. For more than 50 years, the UCLA Labor Center has created innovative programs that offer a range of educational, research and public service activities within the university and in the broader community, especially among low-wage and immigrant workers.