Ken Jacobs is the Chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center, where he as been a Labor Specialist since 2002. His areas of specialization include health care coverage, the California budget, low-wage work, the retail industry and public policy. Learn more about Ken.

It’s the Economy, Stupid- Public Sector Unions are not the Cause of State Budget Deficits

(including Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, Idaho, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming) have already enacted anti-union legislation, which proponents justified with claims that public sector unions are behind the state budget deficits.

Their central argument does not withstand scrutiny. A report I co-authored with two of my colleagues from UC Berkeley, entitled “The Wrong Target: Public Sector Unions and State Budget Deficits,” analyzes the relationship between public sector workers, their unions, and state budget deficits. We found the that budget shortfalls in states across the United States were caused by the housing bubble burst and the continuing effects of the great recession, and not public sector workers or their unions.

Could Walmart Pay a Living Wage?

Walmart is well known for both its low prices and its low wages. The drive to keep prices is down is offered as explanation for the company’s substandard wages and benefits. New findings show that Walmart can keep those prices low and pay its workers a living wage.

My colleagues and I at UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research & Education released a study earlier this week, “Living Wage Policies and Big-Box Retail: How a Higher Wage Standard Would Impact Walmart Workers and Shoppers,” which found that Walmart could help its largely low-income employees by increasing the minimum wage it pays to $12. This would significantly improve incomes for many Walmart workers, with only the slightest impact on customers.