Illustration of workers with protest signs for fair wages, safety, and equal rights
Illustration by Queenbe Monyei

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.

A Message from CLAW's New 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.

Recent Publications

  • Cover page of document

    Leslie v. Starbucks: Why Hire Labor Spies When Courts Will Do the Union-Busting for You?

    LAW & POLICY NOTE (November 2022)

    In the union organizing campaigns of the 1930s, companies paid legions of spies to report everyone who attended a union meeting and what was said. Union meetings were held at night in pitch dark rooms so that no one could tell who else was there and who said what. Today, Starbucks needn’t hire spies. They just use subpoenas in civil litigation. In an outrageous decision, a judge in the Western District of New York let them get away with it. Starbucks issued a subpoena in the NLRB’s litigation to obtain an injunction under section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act against the company’s ongoing unfair labor practices against its workers in Buffalo and Rochester. Through the subpoena, Starbucks sought an enormous amount of confidential information about virtually every aspect of the entire nationwide Workers United campaign at every Starbucks across the country. In September 2022, the judge ordered the union and the workers to produce a staggering number of emails, text messages, and records of other communications in response to the subpoena. This Note explains why the court's order is contrary to law. The matter is now on appeal in the Second Circuit, and if the court of appeals does not overturn the ruling, it will turn any enforcement action brought by the NLRB into a hunting license for companies to harass unions and workers.
  • 1st page of document

    Viking River Cruises v. Moriana: California Courts are Not Bound by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Misconstruction of PAGA Standing

    LAW & POLICY NOTE (July 2022)

    The U.S. Supreme Court June 2022 decision in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) does not preempt a rule of California law that invalidates contractual waivers of the right to assert representative claims under the California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) in any forum. However, in a portion of the majority opinion that four justices refused to join, the Court created confusion about whether plaintiffs subject to arbitration lose standing under state law to maintain representative PAGA claims in court. We explain why the majority’s view of PAGA standing in Viking River Cruises clashes with the California Supreme Court’s authoritative approach to PAGA standing, announced two years ago in Kim v. Reins International California, Inc. We conclude that California courts are not bound by the portion of Viking River Cruises that posits the loss of representative standing to litigate PAGA claims on behalf of other employees, and instead must follow Kim.
  • 1st page of document

    The Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (Assembly Bill 257): Strengthening the Bill to Protect the Floor on Labor Standards and Establish Franchisor Liability

    LAW & POLICY NOTE (June 2022)

    California’s Assembly Bill (A.B.) 257, the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery (FAST Recovery) Act, creates a partnership between fast food restaurant workers, their advocates, businesses, and state agency officials through a Fast Food Sector Council empowered to set labor standards specific to the industry. Regardless of whether the bill is signed into law, A.B. 257 will remain a consequential piece of legislation that serves as a template for improving labor standards in the fast food sector and in other low-wage industries. Analyzing the bill in print as of June 9, 2022, we propose model language that ensures the labor standards developed by the council cannot fall below existing state standards applicable to fast food workers and are fully enforceable under the Labor Code, and that strengthen the franchisor liability provisions of the bill.

Recent News