Campus, News

Plans for a new CSULB labor center are still up in the air

By: Kadie Gurley, Mikayla Schwartz and Xochilt Andrade 

Although there is yet to be a labor center built on the Long Beach State campus, conversations have sparked that may lead to California State Universities soon following the University of California model.

On Oct. 6, the College of Liberal Arts hosted an event called “Recapturing the Momentum” held at the Anna W. Ngai Alumni Center, where Co-President of the California Faculty Association Long Beach chapter, Gary Hytrek, led the event and spoke in favor of a center supporting labor workers.

Labor Centers are non-profit based and are usually run by an organization in support of creating better working environments, higher wages for workers, and living conditions.

One of the main guest speakers at the event was ex-president Ron Herrera of the LA County Federation of Labor, who was forced to step down as labor federation’s president after the Los Angeles Times published leaked audio about him and two other LA City Councilmembers in a discussion involving racist remarks.

See Story: CFA Long Beach denounces Ron Herrera, continues plans for labor union center.

Herrera said during the meeting that he hopes the campus will one day establish a labor center to help improve workers’ lives.

“So when we build that labor center, I hope that the college would be open to a project labor agreement and with people that have a chance at the dignity to go through that apprenticeship program to have that union card and that career,” Herrera said.

Though there was hope, there was no promise of financial assistance from Herrera or the LA County Federation of Labor.

Currently, only three UC schools have a labor center available on their campus communities: UC Merced, UC Berkeley, and UCLA. In the 2022-2023 California budget, $13 million was awarded to the UC labor center system to develop and implement them.

Long Beach City College developed its own labor center on Sept. 24, 2020.

According to their site, The LBCC Labor Center, located at the Pacific Coast Campus, provides labor-related experiences for students, including activities and events facilitated by renowned industry leaders that will expose them to real-world work opportunities. Additionally, students are able to visit job sites and training centers to gain valuable hands-on experience.

No California State University has developed a labor center on its campus grounds.

Labor centers, supporters say, can help open doors for student workers, especially those from underrepresented groups.

“Many of the rights we take for granted today, such as the 40-hour work week, the weekend, and benefits, such as healthcare and retirement, were all won through struggles and collective labor organizing,” said Lily House-Peters, associate professor from the Department of Geography.

Rooted by early U.S. labor movements in 1768, unions were formed to protect the common interest of workers, a movement that has now modernized to incorporate contemporary workforce jobs.

“Campus labor studies centers play a vital role in conducting research, compiling histories and counter-histories of labor struggles, educating students and the public, and advancing labor policies that promote just and equitable working conditions,” House-Peters said.

Labor Studies programs are being implemented in college institutions for students seeking to learn and analyze various public policies, wages, unions, and the working-class movement.

Despite the lack of plans for a labor center at Long Beach State, faculty are ready to move forward.

“While it is deeply disappointing to learn of Ron Herrera’s participation and complicity in the discussion heard on the leaked audio tapes, it is crucial to recognize that the labor movement is not just one person; it is a collective movement that goes far beyond Ron Herrera,” House-Peters said.

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