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 policymakers in Washington State. We are pleased to announce four new projects for the 2023-2024 academic year, representing over $30,000 in total funding.


Jennifer Lee Hoffman, Associate Professor, and Regena Pauketat, PhD Candidate, Center for Leadership in Athletics & College of Education, University of Washington 

State of Washington College Athlete Labor Rights: Preparing for Employment & Unionization

State legislatures, federal courts, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are all considering questions of college athlete compensation, including whether college athletes should be reclassified from student status to employee status. These cases also consider questions over a fair college athlete wage and other worker protections and benefits such as overtime pay, antitrust restrictions related to endorsements, medical and injury support, and access to media rights and other revenue generated by college athletic programs. Yet, there are no models for college athlete employee status that currently exist. Therefore, we examine labor law and how changes to college athlete employment status will impact students in Washington state. Our report provides findings and recommendations for current and prospective athletes, labor organizations and unions supporting college athletes, and Washington state lawmakers at the state and federal levels interested in college athlete employee legislation. 





Celine Lu, PhD Student, Psychology 

Reducing Community Behavioral Health Provider Burnout

In Washington state, and in the rest of the US, youth-focused community mental health providers are experiencing alarmingly high levels of burnout, which can result in staff turnover, worse quality patient care, and poor employee well-being. Most of the youth served in community settings are Medicaid covered, which in Washington and most other states, includes youth experiencing financial adversity and youth of color. Thus, failing to address burnout may further drive mental health disparities in these communities. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the ongoing youth mental health crisis and workforce shortage among mental health workers. As a result, the current workforce is expected to take on larger and more intense caseloads, creating a vicious cycle of burnout, staff turnover and poor youth mental health outcomes. Nevertheless, clinical supervisors can play a crucial role in mitigating provider burnout.

This project will obtain Washington state community mental health providers’ experiences with burnout and their suggestions for acceptable, appropriate and feasible solutions that clinical supervisors in their organizations can implement to address this issue. Participants’ responses will be used to develop a decision-making tool to help supervisors determine and tailor solutions to address their providers’ burnout, which will be pilot-tested and later disseminated to community mental health organizations across Washington state. Data will be collected through surveys and semi-structured focus group interviews. Study findings will explore ways to improve working conditions and retention in the mental health workforce and will be shared with community providers and supervisors across Washington state.


Lily Monsey, Master's Student, School of Public Health, partnering with Dr. Marissa Baker and the Drivers Union

Designing the Washington State Electric Vehicle Transition to be Inclusive to Transit Network Company Drivers

In Washington state, transit network company (TNC) drivers have won many first-in-the-nation rights that represent the power of organized labor to address systemic economic inequities in non-traditional work environments. As Washington prepares to require all new car sales to meet zero-emissions standards, this places TNC drivers at the intersection of labor rights and climate justice efforts, presenting the need to ensure these drivers can fully and equitably participate in this transition. In collaboration with the Drivers Union and University of Washington researchers, this project will characterize driver perceptions of EV vehicle transition, including barriers to vehicle purchase, maintenance, insurance, and charging infrastructure. A survey developed in collaboration with current and former TNC drivers will be deployed to evaluate drivers’ opinions on the feasibility of using an electric vehicle for their work. Additionally, we will conduct focus groups with current TNC drivers to gain a deeper understanding of the constraints and concerns they face in adopting an electric vehicle, with the goal of identifying policy changes necessary to enable the TNC driver community to participate in the EV transition. Qualitative and quantitative results of this project will be analyzed in a final report. This will be shared with TNC drivers for input and used to center equity concerns in ongoing consultation with Washington state policymakers and relevant industry partners to amplify these workers’ voices. 


Carolyn Pinedo-Turnovsky, Associate Professor, Department of American Ethnic Studies

Immigrants, non-citizens, and licensure policies

How can we create inclusive professional pathways for people regardless of their immigration status in Washington State? Federal law prohibits immigrants without legal status from holding professional licenses. However, states individually regulate licensing and can enact legislation to eliminate legal status as a barrier. This study examines Washington State policies that regulate access to certain professional fields, such as medicine and education. But the heart of this project will be interviews with workers, especially with undocumented students entering these fields, that address the impact of licensing restrictions and how they navigate pursuing professional ambitions. Undocumented immigrants who meet licensure criteria can alleviate labor shortages in critical fields like education and nursing and which the recent pandemic significantly intensified. This research can inform a process for expanding access to occupational licensing in Washington State and reinforce the principle of valuing every person’s labor and their contributions as members of our communities.