Robert Chlala is a postdoctoral scholar at the UCLA Labor Center & Institute for Research on Labor & Employment (IRLE) whose work is at the intersection of labor, urban development, movement-building and abolition. Obtaining a $1.05 million grant from the Department of Cannabis Control, he is co-leading a first-of-its kind statewide study of California cannabis workers centering equity, with a team from the UCLA Labor Center, Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity (CARE) at Work, and worker and community partners.
The new statewide study builds off research alongside workers, labor unions and equity advocates in the Los Angeles cannabis industry since 2013. He recently completed his PhD in Sociology at the University of Southern California, and his book manuscript and publications in journals such as Environment and Planning C explore the cannabis market’s growth in relationship to urbanized racial capitalism, sexuality, gender and social movements in Los Angeles. His engaged research and media work has included addressing how workers and community reinvestment fit in Los Angeles’ social equity policies and reparations. Trained in community-based research at USC Equity Research Initiative, he also recently served as a Senior Program Manager for Funders for a Just Economy, developing an ongoing Building Power in Place project in cities like Houston. He sees his research as indebted to community who created and sustain the knowledge, relationships and processes shaping cannabis as medicine and to Angeleno survivors and thrivers among decades of disinvestment for the sake of mass incarceration – and he draws deeply from his practice of Nichiren Buddhism as part of the Soka Gakkai International towards imagining and enacting a value-creating economy.