Fall 2004 Colloquia

Thursday, October 7, 2004

“From the Webbs to the Web: the Contribution of the Internet to Reviving Union Fortunes”

Professor Richard B. Freeman, Economics Department, Harvard University
(co-sponsored by the Labor Economics Seminar)

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This paper shows that in the 2000s unions in the UK and US made innovative use of the Internet to deliver union services and move toward open source unions better suited for the modern world than traditional union structures. In contrast to analysts who see unions as being on an inexorable path of decline, I argue that these innovations are changing unions from institutions of the Webbs to institutions of the Web, which will improve their effectiveness and revive their role as the key worker organization in capitalism.

Professor Freeman co-chairs the Harvard Trade Union Program and directs the Labor Studies program at NBER. One of the most prolific and influential labor economists in the United States, Freeman’s many books include What Do Unions Do? (1984) and Visible Hands: Labor Institutions in the New Economy, forthcoming 2004.

Monday, October 11, 2004

“The Origins of Affirmative Action at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton”

Professor Jerome Karabel, Sociology Department, UCB
(co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Social Change)

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The presentation will describe how Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were transformed from de facto segregated institutions in 1960 (less than one percent black) to fully integrated institutions by the late 1960s. It will also discuss the various forces, both on and off campus, that produced this historic change. Finally, the presentation will link this discussion to a broader analysis of how the 1960s enduringly changed admissions policies at the nation's elite universities.

Professor Karabel is the author of The Chosen: Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton From 1900 to Today, forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin in Fall 2005. He is a former chair of the UCB admissions committee; the Karabel Report was influential in changing UC admissions to broaden the socio-economic background of our students.

Monday, November 8, 2004

“The Hidden Public Costs of Low-Wage Jobs in California”

Arindrajit Dube, Ken Jacobs and Carol Zabin, CLRE and IRLE, UCB

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This study examines the extent to which publicly-funded safety net programs are becoming an ongoing wage supplement for low-wage workers, rather than emergency assistance for those who find themselves unable to work. The data set combines administrative data on enrollments and costs of the ten largest statewide programs with detailed demographic and employment characteristics of program participants in the Current Population Survey. Of $21.2 billion of public assistance provided to low-income Calfiornia families in 2002, 48 percent-- or $10.1 billion-- went to families in which at least one member worked at least forty-five weeks per year. A simulated increase in the state minimum wage to $8 would reduce taxpayer costs by $2.7 billion.

Monday, November 22, 2004

“Economic Impacts of Unionization on Private Sector Employers, 1984-2001”

Professor David S. Lee, Economics Department, UCB

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Using multiple establishment-level data sets that represent establishments that faced organizing drives in the U.S. during 1984-1999, this paper uses a regression discontinuity design to estimate the impact of unionization on business survival, employment, output, productivity, and wages. Essentially, outcomes for employers where unions barely won the election (e.g. by one vote) are compared to those where the unions barely lost. The analysis finds small impacts on all outcomes that we examine; estimates for wages are close to zero. The evidence suggests that at least in recent decades the legal mandate that requires the employer to bargain with a certified union has had little economic impact on employers, because unions have been somewhat unsuccessful at securing significant wage gains.

This paper is scheduled to appear in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. Professor Lee is also the author of “Inequality in the United States during the 1980s: Rising Dispersion or Falling Minimum Wage?” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1999.

Monday, December 6, 2004

"Upgrading California’s Homecare Workforce: The Impact of Political Action and Unionization"

Professor Candace Howes, Economics Department, Connecticut College

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Howes will present the results of the first stage of a two-year project that examines the impact of wage and benefit differentials on the recruitment and retention of homecare workers. This paper, which is forthcoming in The State of California Labor, 2004, tells the story of the political process by which some homecare jobs have been upgraded in California. Using descriptive statistics and logit regression analysis, it also shows that turnover is lower in those counties where wages and benefits are higher, after controlling for other factors that affect turnover.

Candace Howes is the Hogate-Ferrin Associate Professor of Economics at Connecticut College and a Visiting Scholar at the IRLE, where she is conducting a study of homecare workers in collaboration with the UC Berkeley Labor Center and SEIU Locals 250 and 434B. Howes is the author of “Living Wages and Retention of Homecare Workers in San Francisco,” forthcoming in Industrial Relations, January 2005, Special Issue: the Impacts of Living Wage Policies.