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.

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.

CLAW's Latest Notes & Briefs

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    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.
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    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.
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    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 misclassification 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.
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    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.

CLAW In the News

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    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.”

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    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

In Loving Memory: A Tribute to Professor Lauren Edelman

Lauren Edelman


We at CLAW mourn the untimely death of our beloved and admired faculty co-director and friend Professor Lauren Edelman. Her sophisticated and theoretically rich scholarship revealed how employment laws often fail to bring about promised change and how the meaning of law and rights are transformed by and within organizations, often to serve corporate managerial interests rather than to achieve justice for workers. Laurie was an extraordinarily generous mentor, colleague, and friend. Among her many contributions to Berkeley and to the law of the workplace was her work as a founding faculty director of CLAW. We remember with gratitude her generosity, kindness, brilliance, and tireless commitment to building a more just world of work.

Professors Catherine Albiston and Catherine Fisk, CLAW Faculty Co-Directors, and Christina Chung, CLAW Executive Director