UCLA Labor Center

CARE at Work


The Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity (CARE) at Work, in partnership with the Los Angeles Black Worker Center and UCLA Labor Center, centers Black workers and community justice advocates in creating approaches and advancing innovative solutions that address the needs of Black working-class people through a school-to-movement pathway of service, teaching, and research. This work serves to realize a California where advancing justice allows equity created around Black life to cascade into meaningful Black working conditions that sustain families and vibrant communities. 

CAREatWork: Why we do what we do – BLACK JOB CRISIS IN SOCAL: 

Black workers today face three major challenges — the COVID-19 health crisis, economic disparities, and anti-Black racism and racial violence ingrained in our society, structures, and institutions of power. Poverty and the concentration of Black workers into low-wage, unregulated work (more than half of Southern California’s Black workers) increased Black workers’ exposure and vulnerability to illness, death, layoffs, and increased retaliation for raising COVID safety concerns. With the pandemic fallout, an astounding 84 percent of Black workers in California have filed for unemployment at some time during the pandemic. And the continued racial terror by the police and the insurrection of January 6th showed just how deep institutional racism and anti-Black Confederacy is in the United States. About 65 percent of Black working families live in Southern California — about 1.2 million people. What happens to this vulnerable worker population is generative for the rest of the country. 

These challenges force us to react, reinvent, and recover in new and different ways. As we begin to re-open, increased demand for racial justice needs to include loud calls for equitable recovery strategies that center the needs of Black workers and build power where they are. CAREatWork focuses on Black equity, working with more than 32 unions and community organizations across Southern California to build strong Black worker centers to engage local workers; shape regional coordination, resource-sharing, and capacity building toward field development and co-produce relevant actionable research and policy learning to fuel change. 


CAREatWork waters the roots that weave between academic institutions committed to civic engagement and community justice advocates who protect and defend Black workers, and springboards emerging community leaders into growing the field of Black organizing and the Black Worker Movement. CAREatWork focuses on the following areas of applied work:

Research: Participatory action research toward strategic policy, practice, and narrative shift that advances the position of SoCal Black working-class communities. 

Our current research agenda focuses on an equitable recovery for Black working populations and sectors.

Topics include: 

  • Essential Stories is a 1000 worker survey and story collection project to measure the economic impacts of the pandemic on the lives of Black working people and to uplift their experiences and needs as nearly 85 percent of all Black California’s working-age adults filed for unemployment benefits in the last year between March 2020 – December 2020. This survey is conducted in partnership with the Southern California Hub for Regional Organizing, Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement, Earthlodge Center for Transformation, SEIU 2015 and UDWA IE/SD.
  • Data Subcommittee Co-Chair for the Workforce Equity Demonstration Project in the City of Los Angeles, a High Road Training Partnership to build quality jobs and relevant training pathways into public works employment. Partners include: the 1000 Strong Coalition anchored by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Los Angeles Black Worker Center, SEIU 721 and AFSCME 3090, Bureau of Public Workers for the City of Los Angeles.
  •  Workplace Retaliation and Restorative Justice Project is an innovative feasibility study to explore the potential role of restorative justice theories/practice in labor law enforcement. This project is done in partnership with the CA Labor and Workforce Agency Retaliation Unit and regional worker rights organizations.
  • Re-Imagined Recovery is a series of research and covenings focused on equity in the Los Angeles County public industry sector, examining the impact of disaster capitalism and austerity on the displacement of Black and women workers in the public sector, the only sector in the region where Black workers and women of color are equitably represented in quality jobs.

Field Development and Capacity Building:  

  • CAREatWork supports an emerging field of new worker centers and alliances focused on the diverse needs of Black workers in Southern California, centering immigrants, returning citizens, youth, and low-wage and unemployed workers. CARE provides a training and support function for regional learning, coalition building, and institution building towards strategic policy, practice, and narrative shift that advances the position of Black workers and the families that rely on them.
  • CAREatWork supports the facilitation of the Black Labor Table, a roundtable that builds and facilitates bridges for building progressive leadership, durable networks, and winning Black strategic campaigns which empowers the Black working class. This work aims to strengthen union-community partnership and build a bridge between traditional labor unions and grassroots economic justice organizations that position Black labor leaders as champions of an inclusive and equitable labor movement creating access, equity, and justice for Los Angeles County’s Black working community.
  • CAREatWork hosts Freedom Fellowship, a 10-week experiential opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience working with activists and community organizers involved in the movement for civic and economic justice for Black workers. This work will prioritize supporting Black Worker Centers across California with regional projects, policy solutions, and research studies.
  • CAREatWork sponsors We Gone Be Alright: Developing the Next Generation of Black Organizers through history, theory and practice. In partnership with UCLA Labor Studies, local community college and other campuses, students enrolled in We Gone Be Alright: Developing the Next Generation of Black Organizers course, learn from and build on Black labor and community organizing traditions, and develop the skills and mindsets needed for transformative leadership. Students connect with leaders of labor unions, community organizations, student organizations, and prepare for more intensive community-based work.

For more information on partners and the field of Black Worker organizing:



Reimagined Recovery: Black Workers, the Public Sector, and COVID-19

Supported works

Ain’t No Sunshine Report – UCR report work supported and managed by UCLA CARE at Work

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