Each year, the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies awards thousands of dollars in research funding to University of Washington graduate students and faculty. Since 1992, the Center has awarded over one hundred grants, producing dozens of reports, books, articles, and more. The Washington State Labor Grants are designed to support policy-oriented research on aspects of labor directly relevant to policy makers in Washington State. 

We are pleased to announce the winners for 2019-20 cycle and their important projects:


Professor Mark Ellis, Department of Geography, UW, “Migration, Employer Transfers and Job Changes in Washington, 2000-2015.”

The motivation for this project is to determine the role of employer transfers versus job changes in migration to and from Washington State labor markets. Migration via employer transfers are geographic moves made without separating from an employer (i.e. no job change). Job change migrations are geographic moves associated with changes in employer. There is evidence that the frequency of job changes has declined in the U.S. in the last 20 years, which could mean that employer transfers have become a more important part of the labor migration stream. If true, this has implications for state and local economic and workforce development policies, including whether to continue directing investments to attract workers or invest more in state and local workforce development. Existing data sources tell us nothing about the role of employers in directing U.S. workforce flows between areas and therefore we cannot distinguish between within-employer moves versus employee-driven job changes in driving the growth or decline in employment in state labor markets. This matters for policy because the dominant supply-oriented theories of economic development presume key sets of workers are attracted to destinations because they offer amenities attractive to so-called “creatives.” States and localities that follow this logic and invest in amenities necessarily redirect resources away from investments in local workforce development that would stimulate more equitable growth for disadvantaged residents. If employer transfers are a large fraction of a region’s labor force growth then policy claims about the importance of investing in amenities become weaker relative to workforce development.



Associate Professor Ricardo Gomez, UW Information School, “Life Histories of Labor and Resilience: 25 Years of Casa Latina in Seattle.”

This project seeks to document life histories and testimonials by day laborers, domestic workers, staff and volunteers of Casa Latina, entering its 25th year of contributing to social justice and empowerment of Latino immigrants through employment, education and community organizing. The collection of life stories and testimonials will be used to produce a bilingual book, a bilingual multimedia web site, and will become part of the UW Libraries Special Collection: Labor Archives of Washington. For 25 years, Casa Latina has focused on serving some of the poorest and most vulnerable Latinos in Seattle: day laborers and domestic workers. Casa Latina has pioneered in day labor organization combining job dispatch with popular education and community organizing, to transform the lives of thousands of Latinos in Washington State. Casa Latina has helped workers grow from finding jobs on the street to organizing in a safe and dry space with dignity; to demand a fixed wage and clarify expectations for a day of work; to include women in the programs, most notably as domestic workers; and to learn occupationally relevant English in ESL classes. This project will document and celebrate the success of Casa Latina in strengthening dignity, equity and employment opportunities for Latinos in Washington State.



Professor Dan Jacoby, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Bothell, “Union Involvement in Workforce Development Training.”

This research project will identify opportunities and barriers to joint employer/union training with Workforce Snohomish, one of twelve Workforce Development Councils in Washington State. Workforce Snohomish operates Centers in Everett and one in Lynnwood.  This county agency sees itself as an innovator employment center and desires to cooperate with University researchers. This project will help Workforce Snohomish establish a better understanding of opportunities and constraints in developing new union and multi-employer training agreements which are a critical step towards labor’s efforts to become a more valued actor in the county and the state. Workforce development and training is a major policy arena that is designed to provide economic opportunity for current and displaced workers.  It constitutes a critical component within many local economic development plans.  Nonetheless, the efficacy of much workforce development remains controversial. Union driven training programs offer key advantages. Much of their relative success stems from the fact the union training is frequently provided to incumbent employees seeking advancement or to apprentices who are often guaranteed employment upon program completion. Joint participation by employers and unions in workforce development suggests new possibilities to successfully increase income and job mobility for poor and minority workers while simultaneously increasing their understanding of and participation in organized labor.



Hilary Wething, Ph.D. Candidate, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, “Too Much Risk? An Assessment of the Trends and Drivers of Low-Wage Workers’ Earnings Volatility in Washington State.”

This project will use Washington State administrative data to assess the degree to which incidences of between-job and within-job instability affect Washington workers’ earnings levels and volatility, and whether these changes affect workers' overall economic security. Recent qualitative and survey research has documented a rise in precarious forms of nontraditional full-time, full-year work, such as temporary and on-call work, and jobs which have uncertain employment practices. By shifting the risk of employment from employers onto workers, these jobs increase workers’ employment instability through two vehicles. First, non-standard jobs increase the rate of between-job instability through shorter durations of employment contracts and higher rates of job churn and temporary work. Second, non-standard jobs increase the rate of within-job instability through changes in wage-rates and scheduling practices that increase the volatility in hours worked within a consistent job. Through the findings of this study researchers will gain an understanding of the breadth and depth of workers’ overall employment instability and learn how differing types of instability map onto workers’ earnings volatility over time. Policy makers in Washington State will also gain a sense of which employment practices most affect worker’s economic security and which industries or type of firm in their own state rely on these practices. This information can help legislators discern which state-wide public policies are best for their state with respect to their ability to mitigate labor market risk and increase the economic security of Washington State workers.