The Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies awards annual grant funding to UW graduate students and faculty for research on aspects of labor directly relevant to policy makers in Washington State. We are pleased to announce six new projects for 2021-2022 academic year, representing nearly $50,000 in total funding.



Carrie Freshour, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography

P. Josua Griffin, Assistant Professor, Department of American Indian Studies / Marine and Environmental Affairs

Labor, Race, and Indigeneity in Washington’s Maritime Blue Strategy

In January 2019, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and a host of stakeholders gathered at the Seattle waterfront to launch the “Maritime Blue Strategy.” This strategy presents a vision of economic growth centered on environmentally friendly “blue growth” mechanisms for rapid workforce development and new mobilizations of expertise and capital.

Through interviews, surveys, and community engagement, Freshour and Griffin’s research will trace the development and effects of Maritime Blue on labor, environmental justice, and BIPOC communities of the Salish Sea, investigating ways to address global climate change and pursue economic development while confronting past and ongoing forms of settler colonialism. What might worker solidarity, environmental sustainability, climate change policy, and other coastal movements for environmental sovereignty, economic justice, and collective futures have in common?

[Originally funded 2020-2021; additional funding awarded 2021-2022]



Lilian Liu, Masters Student, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences

Assessing Stakeholder Engagement in Labor Policy: The Washington Emergency Rule to Protect Workers from Wildfire Smoke

After the devastating wildfire episode in September 2020 in Washington State, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (LNI) filed an “emergency rule” that increases protection for outdoor workers exposed to smoke. During last year’s smoke episode, many outdoor workers were classified as essential workers who continued to work despite risk of infection from Covid-19. Prior to this rule, employers in Washington were not required by state or federal agencies to provide respiratory protection to workers.

Liu’s study will assess stakeholders’ input on the LNI’s rule-making process and evaluate reactions to the new emergency rule in the upcoming wildfire season. This project utilizes interviews, surveys, and content analysis and asks: (1) What motivated the rule development, and what positions did labor and industry organizations have on the rule? (2) How important were similar rules from other states in Washington rule establishment? (3) What were the potential challenges in emergency rule implementation this year, and did stakeholders feel it was effective in worker protection? (4) To what extent was equity considered in the rule development and implementation given the overlapping concerns of essential work, the COVID-19 pandemic, and disproportionate risks for people of color in smoke-affected communities and industries?


Lisa Manzer, Director, Center for Women's Welfare, School of Social Work

Prospects for Post-Pandemic Progress: Modeling the Impact of Proposed Policy Changes in the American Families Plan on Washington State Working Families' Ability to Meet Basic Needs

Working parents in Washington are struggling in the face of a mounting disparity between rising costs and stagnating wages. The uneven recovery from the Great Recession and 2020-2021 pandemic-related economic downturn have exacerbated economic inequality, putting new pressures on family budgets. Manzer’s project will explore how the proposed policies of the Biden administration’s American Families Plan will impact Washington State working families’ ability to cover their basic needs. The study asks: How will proposed policy changes in federal tax credits and childcare affordability impact the economic well-being of working Washington families? Which groups will be most affected by these changes, and will these proposals benefit working mothers and communities of color who are experiencing a disproportionate economic impact of the pandemic? Ultimately, this research informs discussions surrounding how child-focused investments can increase family income and stability and disrupt the trend of increasing economic inequality.



Elizabeth Pelletier, PhD Student, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance

Disparities in Parental Employment Instability Around A Birth: Evidence from Washington State

Parents, especially mothers, often experience unstable employment around the birth of a child, as parents may take paid or unpaid leave from work, work fewer hours, voluntarily leave a job, or even be fired. As a result, households often face reduced income around the time a baby is born – precisely the time they need increased resources to cover expenses for the new child’s needs. In Washington State, as in the United States more broadly, sporadic and unequal access to paid parental leave and affordable child care has meant that employment instability around birth has disproportionate effects based on factors such as sex, race, and employment status. Using linked birth and employment records between 2010 and 2016 from the Washington Merged Longitudinal Administrative Data, Petellier’s project will examine which parent demographic, socioeconomic, and employment characteristics are most associated with increased risk of employment instability around birth.


Rachel Salit, Assistant Professor, School of Medicine

A Survey of Washington State Employers’ Policies for Returning to Work After Cancer Treatment: A First Step in Reform

Close to 400,000 people in Washington state are currently living with cancer. During cancer treatment, patients often take medical leave or need adjustments in their work. Following treatment, survivors report a desire and need to re-engage in employment for financial needs, a sense of productivity and recovery, and return to their normal lives, including a return to work. However, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has no system in place that provides or requires recommendations to employers to help cancer survivors get back to work, and cancer survivors are 1.4 times more likely to be unemployed than individuals without health concerns. To address this policy gap, Salit’s will conduct a survey among 200 employer representatives in Washington to examine employer practices and identify how state policies might facilitate successful returns to work for cancer survivors.



Ellyn Terry, PhD Student, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance       

Can a Guaranteed Income Program in Washington State Mitigate Resource Deprivation and Decrease Racial Inequality?

The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen unequally across populations, revealing how the present social safety net in the United States is not designed to be responsive to economic downturns. Policies such as social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and mandated shutdowns led to concentrated job loss among low-wage workers, racial and ethnic minorities, and women. The responsiveness of social programs, meanwhile, was reduced by work requirements, asset tests, stigma, and large lags between application and receipt of funds.  Terry’s study will evaluate how these problems might be addressed in Washington State through a Guaranteed Income Program, which has shown promise in creating financial stability and increasing employment outcomes by guaranteeing recipients an income sufficient to live on.