Impact of Prop. 209 on Labor and Employment

Scholars and labor experts will today discuss at UCLA how Prop. 209 has impacted labor and employment in California at a symposium titled “Economic Opportunity in California: The Labor & Employment Impact of Prop. 209.”

Proposition 209, California’s anti-affirmative action initiative, went into effect in 1997. Much of the research on Proposition 209 in the decade since has focused on the impact of the initiative in higher education admissions. There has been comparatively little research examining the impact of the initiative on public employment and contracting, and even less that looks at the secondary socio-economic impacts of the initiative. These issues are becoming increasingly crucial to examine as proponents of Proposition 209 seek to place similar initiatives on the ballot in a number of other states. 

The symposium, which takes place from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the UCLA Faculty Center, 480 Charles Young Drive East, is organized by the California Coalition to Analyze the Impact of Proposition 209 (Impact 209 Coalition) and UCLA’s ethnic studies centers. Various other UCLA centers, programs and student organizations are co-sponsoring. The Impact 209 Coalition’s current research initiative is supported in part by grants from the Fulfilling the Dream Fund and the Akonadi Foundation.

Thomas A. Saenz, counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, will give the keynote address. Other speakers at the symposium include:

  • UCLA Acting Dean Reynaldo Macías, Division of Social Sciences.
  • UCLA Associate Vice Chancellor Rosina Becerra, Office of Faculty Diversity.
  • Darnell Hunt, UCLA professor of sociology and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies.
  • Paul Ong, UCLA professor of urban planning, social welfare, and Asian American studies.
  • Ruth Milkman, UCLA professor of sociology and director of Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.
  • Bob Laird, former UC Berkeley director of undergraduate admissions and author of “The Case for Affirmative Action in University Admissions.”

 California voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996, enacting a ban on the use of race-conscious equal opportunity programs in public education, employment. The initiative, which was rejected by a majority of the state’s African American, Latino and Asian American voters, went into effect without significant empirical research on the potential social and economic effects on California.

In 1996 and today, much of the public dialogue over Proposition 209 has been driven by rhetoric divorced from social science research. Additionally, the state of California has not assessed the effects of this dramatic policy change, especially in light of the dramatic demographic shifts that have taken place since Proposition’s passage.

Social and racial justice advocates have been concerned about learning the true impact that Proposition 209 had on the state of California and decided to begin articulating a vision for statewide policy solutions that bring about fair and equal access to opportunity.

Bios of speakers, presentation abstracts and papers are available on

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