Center for Law and Work

The Center for Law and Work (CLAW) fosters cross-disciplinary scholarship, student engagement, and community involvement to address pressing and emerging labor and employment issues faced by our most vulnerable working populations. With an equity lens, we develop law and policy solutions to what is broken in our current structures of work, in order to chart a promising future of progressive labor policy that is inclusive of all workers and promotes a vibrant and just economy. More about CLAW’s mission.

CLAW's Latest Reports, Notes & Briefs

  • Olson v. California CLAW Note Cover page

    Olson v. California: Let the Statute Speak for Itself

    LAW & POLICY NOTE (March 2024)

    Olson v. California—a case pending before the Ninth Circuit en banc in which plaintiffs Uber and Postmates have alleged that AB 5, California’s worker classification statute that codifies the ABC test, violates their equal protection rights—should be an easy case to resolve against plaintiffs under settled equal protection doctrine. But a panel of the Ninth Circuit found otherwise, in an astounding decision holding that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiffs' equal protection claim. Plaintiffs' claim essentially centers on one provision of the law, California Labor Code § 2777, known as the "referral agency exemption" from the ABC test. They object because they are carved out of this exemption and argue there is no rational basis for doing so. In this Note, we point out a key rationale for the distinctions drawn in the referral agency exemption that is clear on the face of the statute but has not received attention: the exemption’s carve-out, which excludes services provided in certain high hazard industries like the ones in which plaintiffs operate, is rationally related to one of AB 5’s stated purposes, namely, to protect workers when they are injured on the job from the harm of misclassification. This presents a straightforward path for the en banc Court to affirm dismissal of plaintiffs' equal protection claim.
  • Seeding Equity Report Cover

    Seeding Equity: A New Community-Based Model of Public Investment in Worker Cooperatives for Excluded Workers

    REPORT (December 2023)

    In 2021, California launched Social Entrepreneurs for Economic Development (SEED), an innovative grant program that funded a demonstration project on worker cooperative development, spearheaded by community-based organizations (CBOs) that organize excluded workers (individuals who cannot access stable, gainful employment relationships and whose economic opportunities are severely constrained due to their immigration status or other significant barriers to employment). Through an impressive collaboration between these CBOs (CLEAN Carwash Worker Center, Cooperacion Santa Ana, Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, and United Taxi Workers of San Diego), and experts in cooperative development (Democracy at Work Institute and L.A. Co-op Lab), SEED propelled the development of worker cooperatives in four low-wage industries: carwash, child care, homecare, and taxicab. The model built through SEED has already taken root as a compelling prototype of public investment in worker cooperatives. In this report, we identify and examine SEED’s key components and highlight some emerging indicators, both quantitative and qualitative, of the model’s considerable potential to raise wages, improve working conditions, and promote worker self-determination.
  • Cover Page

    The Importance of the Revival of California’s Industrial Welfare Commission: The Promise and Future of Tripartite Sectoral Negotiated Rulemaking in California and Beyond

    LAW & POLICY NOTE (September 2023)

    The old common-sense idea that representatives of business, labor, and the public should sit down together to negotiate over industry labor standards is new again. The California budget bill in July 2023 revived the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) from an almost 20-year quiescence due to funding cuts in the early 2000s. The IWC is a 110-year-old mechanism for setting standards for wages and working conditions through a collaborative process involving representatives of California workers, businesses, and the public. We explain how the IWC works, its importance as an exemplar of effective sectoral bargaining, the relationship between the IWC’s renewed mandate and ongoing disputes over last year’s Fast Food Accountability and Standards (“FAST”) Recovery Act, and what the IWC’s revival could mean for workers, business, and the public alike.
  • Cover page

    State and Locally Funded Grant Programs for Undocumented Workers: What is 8 U.S.C. § 1621 and Why Does it Matter?

    LAW & POLICY NOTE (August 2023)

    In 2021, California created a groundbreaking grant program, Social Entrepreneurs for Economic Development (SEED), which awarded nonprofit community-based organizations almost $10 million in state funds to provide entrepreneurial training and microgrants to individuals facing substantial barriers to gainful employment due to their immigration status or limited English proficiency. SEED supported individuals in launching or maintaining a small business to address a social problem or meet a community need, as well as the development of worker-owned cooperatives in low-wage industries. The state codified SEED, in order to eliminate even the smallest risk that an anti-immigrant provision of federal welfare law, 8 U.S.C. § 1621, could be used in an attempt to invalidate the program. Section 1621 was passed by Congress in 1996 to restrict the eligibility of undocumented individuals for “state or local public benefits”—and has been the basis of lawsuits attacking state and locally funded initiatives for undocumented individuals. We discuss section 1621, with a focus on how state and local grant programs like SEED for undocumented workers can be shielded against a section 1621 challenge.
  • Cover Page

    Brief of Amici Curiae Center for Law and Work and Labor and Constitutional Law Scholars in Support of Defendants’ Petition for Rehearing or Rehearing En Banc (Olson v. State of California)

    AMICUS BRIEF (May 2023)

    The Center, along with 28 labor and constitutional law scholars, filed an amicus brief in support of the state of California's petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc in a case before the Ninth Circuit, Olson v. State of California. In Olson, a panel of the Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred when it dismissed Uber’s and Postmates’ claim that AB 5 (California's worker classification law that codifies the ABC test) violates the Equal Protection Clause. The Center’s amicus brief argues that the panel’s opinion, far from a paradigm of judicial restraint that is required under the rational basis standard, represents a form of judicial activism that radically diverges from well-established equal protection jurisprudence and conflicts with the Ninth Circuit’s previous interpretation of AB 5.

CLAW In the News

  • Sacramento Bee icon

    Opinion: Uber is crying wolf yet again to try to get out of protecting its workers


    “If the Ninth Circuit panel’s ruling in favor of Uber is allowed to stand despite AB 5’s reasonable distinctions, it would open the door to countless challenges to laws regulating the workplace and endanger the ability of legislatures to pass laws protecting workers,” write Christina Chung, executive director of the Center for Law and Work at Berkeley Law and Erwin Chemerinksy, dean of Berkeley Law.

  • bloomberg law icon

    Viking River Cruises Gets Another Bite at California PAGA Apple


    Catherine Fisk, University of California, Berkeley Law professor, and Christina Chung, UC Berkeley Center for Law and Work executive director, argue that the US Supreme Court “simply misunderstood California law on PAGA standing; California law is clear that a plaintiff may litigate a PAGA action as a representative of the state for the labor law violations suffered by others regardless of whether the plaintiff must arbitrate her own claim.”

  • Washington Post logo

    A Calif. law that takes wage-setting power from fast-food bosses sparks fight


    “We are seeing a tremendous wave of worker organizing efforts across the country and this is another way I think that workers can raise their voices and be directly involved in raising standards in industry,” said Christina Chung, executive director of the Center for Law and Work at U.C. Berkeley Law School. “It’s really exciting, and I think other states will follow suit.”

CLAW Faculty Directors: News Highlights

A Message from CLAW's Founding Executive Director

Christina Chung
Christina Chung, CLAW Executive Director

There is such a critical need right now to come together as a community to address the many forms of inequality faced by our most vulnerable workers—including the growing wage divide, inadequate labor protections and enforcement, and lack of access to government programs intended to support workers who lose their jobs or can’t work. Too many people in California and across the nation, including disproportionate numbers of people of color, women, and immigrants, work in dead-end jobs that pay poverty wages.

Certainly, we’re seeing some changes that hold the potential to be transformative, such as strong workers’ rights legislation at the state level, a wave of worker organizing victories against powerful global corporations, burgeoning public investment in worker equity initiatives, and increased public discourse about systemic racism, sexism, and xenophobia in business practices and work relationships. But we’re also seeing regressive laws and policies aimed at dismantling any bit of progress we’ve made toward a more just society.

For nearly 25 years, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have worked in both the non-profit and public sectors on issues of economic justice for workers. I first cut my teeth at community-based organizations, where I represented immigrant workers in litigation that combined novel legal theories and worker organizing in a new model of community lawyering, and advanced policies that expanded corporate accountability in subcontracted low-wage industries. When I later served for a decade in the California Labor Commissioner’s Office and Labor Agency, in my roles directing and shaping labor policy with an emphasis on equity for low-wage and immigrant workers, I gained invaluable insights into not only the larger political dynamics within government but also what internally pushes good economic justice policies across the finish line. I saw that all too often, great ideas die on the vine, if you don’t roll up your sleeves and learn how to translate your ideas into laws that actually do what you want them to do, and that actually enable the implementing agency to do its job. I’m eager to bring this sort of perfect union of experiences and perspectives—from both outside and inside government, through both direct work with marginalized workers and policymaking—to the work of the Center.

We’re ambitious in what we want to accomplish at CLAW. That is what this moment demands, when there is so much peril facing workers today, yet so much promise in what we can do if we harness our collective creativity, intellect, and resilience. The Center will draw not only from scholars and students at our vibrant law school and campus, but also engage in meaningful collaborations with diverse stakeholders, including community groups, other research and policy institutions, practitioners, public agencies, and policymakers. Together, we will do our small part in the larger movement for labor rights and economic justice for all workers. 

More about CLAW’s work and community.