Daughter of Civil Rights Leader Speaks at Film Screening

Maria Elena Chávez’s presence at the screening of “Dolores,” a documentary depicting the life and legacy of civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, sent a powerful message about generational activism and fostering change within minority communities. The political landscape of Huerta’s generation, where there were fights for basic human rights of farm workers, is not so different from today, Chávez said about her mother’s efforts. As the film depicts, marginalized immigrant farmworkers living in poverty were able to organize and fight for their rights, benefitting generations to come. Huerta, now 87, was at the heart of this movement, demanding respect, fair wages and access to clean water on the job. Chávez described her mother as “unstoppable” and “passionate” as she has continued to make an impact in her community after leaving the Unified Farm Workers Movement organization and creating the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Chávez also discussed her mother’s impact on her life and professional choices as a political filmmaker and civil rights activist. “It’s in my blood,” said Chávez, who is the daughter of Huerta and Richard Chavez, the brother of César Chávez. She also spoke of the challenges of growing up in a politically active family and adversities she faced because of her mother’s dedication to the civil rights movement while raising 11 children. “Maria Elena Chavez’s visit to UCLA provided a direct appeal to join the movement for justice,” said Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, which co-sponsored the event. “The political landscape that mobilized farmworkers to demand respect, fair wages and workplace access to restrooms and water is not too different from today’s crisis of inequality. As the film ‘Dolores’ makes clear, farmworkers and countless other U.S. workers living in poverty have the skills to organize, and those of us with means have the obligation to support.”

 

‘Indivisible and the Resistance’ Focuses on Local Activism

On Election Day, Nov. 7, 2017, “Indivisible and the Resistance” addressed local activism and organizing as a powerful and effective strategy. Sponsored by the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, the on-campus event featured Billy Fleming, co-author of the “Indivisible Guide,” followed by a panel discussion and Q&A moderated by Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography, and the director of the Institute. In addition to Fleming, panelists included Melany De La Cruz-Viesca of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center; Laure Murat of French and Francophone Studies; and Abel Valenzuela of Urban Planning and Chicana/o Studies. Valenzuela is also special adviser to the Chancellor on immigration policy at UCLA. “Urban Planning is about remaking the relationship between power, knowledge and space, and perhaps so is the INDIVISIBLE team,” said Roy, setting the tone for Fleming’s remarks about effective tactics to engage members of congress — town halls, public events, office visits and phone calls. “It’s been a year,” Roy said. “But the fight to make change is stronger than ever before. We will be seen. We will be heard.” For a video of the event and more information about the series of “#OnRace” events to follow, check the IID website. View a clickable album of photos from the event below.

'Indivisible and the Resistance'

Boyle Heights, Gentrification and Beyond

The UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy hosted a panel discussion on Nov. 1, 2017, focusing on the current state of Boyle Heights as a microcosm for a larger conversation about the rise of gentrification and the slew of other issues to which it contributes in Los Angeles. “Gentrification and its Discontents: Boyle Heights and Beyond” included Rina Palta of KPCC News as moderator; Professors Abel Valenzuela and Eric Avila, whose appointments include positions in UCLA Luskin Urban Planning; Cecilia Estolano MA UP ’91, co-CEO of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors; and Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist. The discussion was followed by an enthusiastic Q&A that included a detailed political history of rent control in Los Angeles from Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. Access a Flickr gallery of photos by Aaron Julian from the event below.

Boyle Heights and Beyond

Gentrification and Its Discontents

Join us for a conversation about gentrification, displacement, and sustainable community in Boyle Heights and Los Angeles-at-large.

Panelists include:

Professor Eric Avila, UCLA Luskin Dept. of Urban Planning, Dept. of History, and Dept. of Chicana/o Studies

Cecilia Estolano MA UP ’91, CEO at Estolano LeSar Perez Adviors

Steve Lopez, columnist at Los Angeles Times

Rina Palta, KPCC correspondent

Professor Abel Valenzuela, UCLA Dept. of Urban Planning & Dept. of Chicana/o Studies, Director of UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

Hosted by the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy.

Inside Look at State Politics

Cristina Garcia’s day at UCLA began with a meeting with Ramona Cortés Garza, executive director of UCLA State Relations, and LPPI’s leadership — Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Professor Matt A. Barreto, Luskin Dean Gary M. Segura and LPPI Director Sonja Diaz. They discussed how to leverage research to inform evidence-based policy solutions that are tailored to meet the needs of diverse Californians. Photo by Bryce Carrington

Cristina Garcia of the California State Assembly spoke about her efforts to make government more transparent during an Oct. 16, 2017, gathering at UCLA hosted by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. Garcia talked about the grassroots battle against political corruption in the 58th Assembly District in Southeast Los Angeles that eventually led her to seek office. “I’m an idealist at heart, and I do believe that we can have a democracy that works for us all.” Garcia talked about her three policy pillars: government transparency, women’s issues and environmental justice. She believes in standing up for the majority-Latino district she was elected to represent, but she envisions California as a place where every group of voters has equal input and access to the political system. She advocates for a more diverse and representative political system in which all Californians have an equal seat at the table. “For me, when I talk about where I want to see my society, we can’t shy away from race,” she said during a Q&A with students, staff and faculty from UCLA Luskin, the Division of Social Science, Grad Division, UCLA’s Early Academic Outreach Program, the Institute of Environmental Studies, and UCLA’s Government and Community Relations. “We can’t shy away from things that are real systemic barriers.” Although she faces hurdles when pushing many issues of importance to her constituents, she said that time and changing demographics are on her side. “Latino power is growing. We have had some losses and some steps back, but sooner or later we are going to be a majority,” Garcia said of California’s evolving population. “And we are also going to be a majority in those demographics in the State Legislature.”

Hover over the image below to access a Flickr gallery of photos.

Assembly member Cristina Garcia

Immigration Experts Call for Unity to Protect Dreamers Panelists shared their experiences at launch event for latest issue of UCLA Blueprint magazine

By Jonathan Van Dyke

As the country reckons with President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, expert panelists discussing immigration at a UCLA event Sept. 12, 2017, noted that now is the time for everyone who supports immigration reform to advocate for legislation that would protect those who are undocumented.

“I feel 100 percent protected at this point,” said Marcela Zhou, a UCLA medical student who is undocumented, as part of the discussion held at the Cross Campus gathering space in downtown Los Angeles. “But we really need the support from the community to continue fighting.”

Zhou was speaking as part of “Public Discussion: L.A. Leaders on Immigration and Civic Action,” which included immigration experts from UCLA and beyond, all trying to make sense of what transpired a week ago and what needs to be done now.

Hosted by the policy magazine UCLA Blueprint, in conjunction with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and UCLA Advocacy, the discussion featured Abel Valenzuela, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin and director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment; Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium; Maria Elena Durazo, longtime Los Angeles labor leader and immigration activist; and Zhou. Blueprint editor-in-chief Jim Newton, who is also a lecturer in public policy at UCLA Luskin, moderated.

On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced its decision to rescind DACA in six months, a move that would affect nearly 800,000 young adults across the country. These people, who are often called Dreamers, were typically brought to the United States as children, and have worked to gain access to higher education and a job, while maintaining a clean legal record (no felonies or major misdemeanors).

Valenzuela, who is also a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies, and has authored numerous work on day labor and immigrant labor markets, lamented that it “took years to get [President Barack] Obama to finally change his mind” and create DACA. Rescinding the order is “not politics as usual in any way,” he said.

Durazo’s experience has spanned decades, working in the hotel employees and restaurant employees union back in 1983, and then as the vice president for UNITE HERE International Union. In 2003 she became national director of the Immigrant Workers’ Freedom Ride, a campaign to address immigration laws, and from 2006 to 2015 she was the first woman elected executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

All that experience leads her to the belief that the public needs to examine the immigration issue beyond just the current administration.

Despite their concerns, the panelists implored the crowd to remain positive. The event comes on the heels of a push by UC system leadership to convince members of the House and Senate from California to get an immigration reform bill through Congress.

Yoon just returned from a 22-day vigil in front of the White House. There, he spoke to many non-immigrants. Yoon said he was hopeful because many were able to open up their minds on the issue.

He was part of the founding of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium in 1994, with successful campaigns including the “Justice for Immigrants” Washington Post ad campaign that opposed anti-immigration legislation. Now, efforts must be focused on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that protects those eligible for DACA.

“It’s their lives and future, and that future is in danger,” Yoon said. “This is a great opportunity to really pass the DREAM Act.”

Durazo called for business and education leaders to amplify the message of Dreamers and comprehensive immigration reform.

In the spring, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block formed an Immigration Advisory Council, on which Valenzuela serves, and the campus and UC system have supported immigrant students.

“There’s a lot we can do,” Valenzuela said. “Their history on our campus is real.” The council will continue to do what it can to mitigate fallout from federal immigration decisions, he added.

For the civically minded in the crowd, the panelists said there is no time like the present.

“Organizing at the street level is what I think is the next answer,” Valenzuela said.

“We’ve been on the defense for so long,” Yoon said. “Now we have something we want to push for.”

To change the narrative on DACA and immigration issues, Zhou said everyone can contribute, and that “organizing is huge.” Think about the terms you use when discussing these issues, she said.

“I am sort of the medical student people talk about positively in their narrative,” but what about field workers and others, she wondered.

Zhou, who was born in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, but to Chinese parents, moved to Calexico, California. when she was 12. Her story defies easy categorization — 100 percent Chinese, but a native Spanish speaker.

Zhou questioned why it was easy for her as someone who looks Asian to walk along checkpoints, even though she’s also from Mexico.

Durazo said she has been out in the community providing resources, including pamphlets detailing how to deal with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. She noted that anyone can do something, for example learning to help with citizenship tests. “Everyone here can be a volunteer in providing these services. The push is to not settle for anything less.”

Memories — and Lessons — from 1992 UCLA Luskin participates in weekend of remembrance 25 years after the Los Angeles riots, examining how the civil unrest changed the city, its institutions and some of the people it impacted most  

By Les Dunseith

Today, Los Angeles is celebrated as an inclusive city known for tolerance, diversity and a welcoming attitude to immigrants from around the globe. Just 25 years ago, however, it was a city seemingly afire with racial distrust, anger and violence.

Things have changed so much for the better since the L.A. riots. Haven’t they?

That question was the focus of a weekend filled with reflection, debate, education and artistic interpretation as the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs joined with several partners to sponsor a series of special events marking the April 29, 1992, anniversary of the start of civil unrest that followed the acquittal of four white LAPD officers in the videotaped beating of a black man, Rodney King. On that day and for five days to follow, looting, arson and violence led to dozens of deaths and $1 billion in damage in and around South Los Angeles.

The memories of those days vary starkly depending on an individual’s perspective and background, a fact that was highlighted by Dean Gary Segura during his opening remarks at one of the panel discussions co-sponsored by UCLA Luskin as part of Flash Point 2017, which was held on the UCLA campus and in Little Tokyo on April 28-30.

“L.A. uprisings. L.A. civil unrest. L.A. riots. L.A. rebellion. Indeed our very language captures the idea that the perspective that different communities have on the event, and what they understood about its causes and consequences, really depended on where you sat at the moment at which it occurred,” Segura said.

One of those unique perspectives is that of the Asian community, particularly people of Korean descent. Korean immigrants and Korean Americans who could only afford to set up shop in the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles owned many businesses in low-income areas that were predominantly black at the time.

“When you look at one specific story out of 1992, the story of Korean Americans is that they are a dynamic community that was undergoing really dramatic demographic and political transformation,” said Taeku Lee, professor of law and political science at UC Berkeley. He was keynote speaker for a session that took place at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center on the opening day of the anniversary series, which was coordinated by the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

In 1992, cultural and language barriers, plus racial mistrust in some cases, had led to simmering resentment among some African Americans toward Koreans. In the riots, resentment turned to rage, and looters and arsonists disproportionately targeted Korean businesses. Today, Lee pointed out, the Korean words for April 29, Sa-I-Gu, hold great cultural and historical significance to all people of Korean descent.

The Korean perspective of the 1992 unrest was also important to Saturday’s events, held in conjunction with the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.

Segura noted that the enterprise represented an expansion of an ongoing speaker program known as the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture series to also include other types of programming on topics of historical and political significance. In this case, the weekend included speeches, panel discussions, art and multimedia exhibits, and the screening of two different films related to the 25th anniversary of the riots.

“The three-day Flash Point program is exactly what I had in mind when I asked to expand the Luskin Lecture Series into a series of public forums, and we at the Luskin School are proud to be a sponsor of this thought-provoking examination of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising,” said Segura during his introduction of filmmaker Dai Sil Kim-Gibson.

Her documentary film, “Wet Sand: Voices from L.A.,” offers a look back at the causes of the riots from the perspectives of various ethnic groups. It also speculates about whether some of those causes linger just below the surface today.

“Things have changed since the 1992 L.A. riot, and the aftermath; I think it stimulated people to think. So racism, overtly, went away a little bit. But the danger was that racism went inside of the people,” Kim-Gibson said during the panel discussion that followed the film. “Overt racism is sometimes easier to deal with than the racism that is inside. So we have to really follow up and talk about what really happened after the L.A. riot and what we still have to do.”

UCLA Luskin’s Abel Valenzuela, professor of urban planning and Chicano studies and director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, moderated the panel discussion.

“From destruction, from ashes, we can see rebirth and growth,” Valenzuela said of the progress that has been made since 1992. “There’s lots to be proud of, though we still have lots of work still to do.”

Only through greater understanding can progress result, said panelist Funmilola Fagbamila, the winter 2017 activist-in-residence at UCLA Luskin. She noted that distrust between blacks and Koreans at the time was often rooted in similar struggles just to survive, to provide for their families.

“We need to talk about unity that addresses the difficulty of power relations among different communities of color,” said Fagbamila, an original member of Black Lives Matter.

“It means looking at the role of anti-blackness in the way in which Korean Americans and Korean immigrants were in conversation with each other during this time. We have to be critical in how we are engaging each other,” she said. “But also loving. Our attitudes need to change in order to change the issues.”

Another panel on Saturday focused on the evolution of communication since 1992 to today’s world in which people with a story to tell can go directly to their audience via YouTube or social media rather than relying on mainstream news outlets.

Panelist Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography and director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, said the media narrative quickly became about interracial and interethnic conflict during the 1992 unrest. The same might not hold true today.

“We are at a slightly different moment. This is perhaps the success of Black Lives Matter,” she speculated, “that it has drawn attention to the ways in which we cannot see these moments of violence as those of individual participants, but we’ve got to see them as structural violence. We’ve got to see this as our liberation being bound up with the liberation of others.”

Today, she said, “even mainstream media has to pay much more careful attention to state violence, in particular police violence, in a way that I do not recall in the 1992 coverage.”

UCLA Luskin also served as sponsor of a screening of the feature film “Gook” on Saturday, during which a packed auditorium of attendees witnessed a fictionalized story of two Korean American brothers, owners of a struggling shoe store who have an unlikely friendship with a streetwise 11-year-old African American girl. Then the Rodney King verdict is read and riots break out.

Filmmaker and lead actor Justin Chon was on hand to introduce his film and answer questions about it. He was joined on stage by cast members and others who participated in the film’s production.

On Sunday, an artist talk in Little Tokyo featured works by Grace Lee, Grace Misoe Lee and Patrick Martinez. Among the works was “Ktown92,” an interactive documentary in process that disrupts and explores the 1992 Los Angeles riots through stories from the greater Koreatown community.

Flash Point 2017 and the weekend’s other events were produced in partnership with the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, UCLA Asian American Studies Center, UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications, UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, UCLA Department of History, UCLA Institute of American Cultures, UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Visual Communications.

70 Years of Improving Workers’ Lives at UCLA UCLA Luskin's Abel Valenzuela, director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, reflects on seven decades of labor market research during a rousing anniversary celebration

By Stefani Ritoper
UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

On April 11, 2017, more than 250 attendees gathered at UCLA’s Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center to celebrate the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment’s 70 years of work. In an evening with music, food and camaraderie, community and campus leaders reflected on the Institute’s long and storied history.

The theme of the evening was “UCLA’s Role in Workers’ Lives Today.” Institute director Abel Valenzuela, who is also a professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, opened the evening by posing the question: In this divided political climate, what is UCLA’s responsibility to improve workers’ lives?

Part of the answer lies in the work that the Institute has undertaken over the past seven decades, Valenzuela said. For seven decades, the Institute has conducted timely and impactful research on labor markets and how work impacts workers and their families. Through the work of its units – UCLA Labor Center, Human Resources Roundtable and the Labor Occupational Safety and Health program – the Institute has created programing to improve workers lives, researching key issues such as worker health and safety, the minimum wage, wage theft and immigrant worker issues.

“It’s amazing that you’re still here,” said History professor Robin D.G. Kelley about the Institute’s long tenure at UCLA. He spoke about the work that IRLE has done to build the capacity of worker organizations, and what this has done in turn for workers’ issues in Los Angeles. “What you’ve been able to do is shift attention to low-wage, marginalized workers. It’s not just a position of defending labor; it’s a vision of transforming society.”

UCLA alumna Ana Luz Gonzalez MA UP `02 PhD `15  and political science student Fernando Antunez spoke about the Institute’s teaching program. Gonzalez talked about her research on day laborers and wage theft, and how this research has been pivotal in advancing policy and educational programs aimed at ending wage theft among low-wage workers. Antunez talked about how work and mental health are connected, sharing the moving story of his own family as they coped with his mother’s deteriorating health.

Keynote speaker and former labor leader Maria Elena Durazo described the importance of UCLA’s commitment to working families. “It’s working families that pay for public higher education,” she said. “They are the permanent donors of the public university system.”

Durazo emphasized that working people need to protect their ability to defend their rights because many laws are not enforced. She spoke of the UCLA Labor Center’s work, partnering with worker organizations on issues such as wage theft, as well as the role of the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in preventing worker deaths on the job.

All speakers emphasized the hopefulness that the work of the Institute brings in this current political and economic era. “These are not dark times. These are bright times,” Kelley said. “And you’re shining the light.”

UCLA’S Role In Workers’ Lives Today: A Celebration of Over 70 Years of Research, Training & Service

featuring

Maria Elena Durazo
Vice-Chair, Democratic National Committee, General Vice President for Immigration, Civil Rights, and Diversity, UNITE HERE

Robin D. G. Kelley
Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History, UCLA

Abel Valenzuela
Director, UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

Now more than ever, in this divided political era, higher education institutions like UCLA have an important role to play in upholding workers’ rights. Universities are where rigorous data-driven research happens on pressing economic, workplace, and political issues. They are where students develop research and critical thinking skills and engage directly in the cities where they live.

For over 70 years, the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment has conducted timely and impactful research on labor markets and how work impacts workers and their families. As home to the UCLA Labor Center, the Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (LOSH), and Human Resources Roundtable (HARRT), IRLE has been at the forefront of shifting the conversation about work in Los Angeles and nationwide.

Abel Valenzuela

Abel Valenzuela is Professor of Chicano Studies and Urban Planning and Director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.  He has authored numerous research articles, books, and reports on immigrant settlement, work, and urban poverty.  His research on day labor and immigrant labor markets have helped frame national public and policy narratives on immigrant and low-wage workers.

Los Angeles occupies a central focus of his research and teaching and guides the Institute’s research directions. Abel was born and raised in Los Angeles, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his M.C.P. and Ph.D from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He has published numerous articles and technical reports on low-wage workers, including co-editing (with Lawrence Bobo, Melvin Oliver, and Jim Johnson) Prismatic Metropolis: Inequality in Los Angeles published by the Russell Sage Foundation in 2000, Immigration and Crime: Race, Ethnicity, and Violence (with Ramiro Martinez Jr.). He has also published in American Behavioral Scientist, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Annual Review of Sociology, New England Journal of Public Policy, Working USA: A Journal of Labor and Society, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, and Regional Studies.

Abel lives in Venice Beach with his wife and three sons.

 

Selected Publications

Paul Apostolidis and Abel Valenzuela Jr.  2014.  “Cosmopolitan Politics and the Migrant Day Labor Movement.”  Politics, Groups, and Identities.  Vol. 2(2):222-244.

Valenzuela Jr., A.  2014.  “Regulating Day Labor: Worker Centers and Organizing in the Informal Economy.”  In The Informal City: Settings, Strategies, Responses (Eds) Vinit Mukhija and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sidris.  Cambridge, MA:  MIT Press.  Pgs 261-276.

Bostic, R.W., A. M. Kim, and A. Valenzuela Jr. 2016.  Guest Co-editors.  Symposium: Contesting the Streets.  Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research. Volume 18, Number 1: Pgs, 3-122.

Theodore, N., D. Blaauw, C. Schenck, A. Valenzuela Jr., C. Schoeman, E. Melendez.  2015.  “Day Labor, Informality and Vulnerability in South Africa and the United States.”  International Journal of Manpower.  Vol. 36 No. 6: 1-18.

Areas of Expertise: economy, jobs low-wage workers, day labor, immigration, urban poverty, urban planning, inequality