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Food Labor Research Center

About the Center

The Food Labor Research Center was launched in fall 2012 by Saru Jayaraman as a project of the Labor Center and affiliated with the Berkeley Food Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. As a leader in the movement for food worker justice, Saru saw a gap in the study of the intersection of food and labor.

While there are several University centers that focus on labor studies, the Food Labor Research Center at the Goldman School of Public Policy is the first academic institution in the country to focus on the intersection between food and labor issues. 


Saru Jayaraman is the Director of the Food Labor Research Center and an Assistant Adjunct Professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy. She is also the Co-Founder and President of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), which has organized restaurant workers to win workplace justice campaigns, conduct research and policy work, partner with responsible restaurants, and launch cooperatively-owned restaurants. The story of Saru and her co-founder’s work founding ROC has been chronicled in the book The Accidental American.

At the Goldman School of Public Policy, Saru has taught courses on U.S. social movements and mobilizing the working class. She was affiliated with the Berkeley Labor Center and went on to found the Food Labor Research Center, focusing on the intersection of food and labor policy.

Saru Jayaraman co-edited The New Urban Immigrant Workforce, (ME Sharpe, 2005). She is a graduate of Yale Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She was profiled in the New York Times “Public Lives” section in 2005, named one of Crain’s “40 Under 40” in 2008, was 1010 Wins’ “Newsmaker of the Year” and New York Magazine’s “Influentials” of New York City. She was listed in CNN’s “Top10 Visionary Women” and recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House in 2014, and a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in 2015. Saru authored Behind the Kitchen Door (Cornell University Press, 2013), a national bestseller, and has appeared on CNN with Soledad O’Brien, Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, Melissa Harris Perry and UP with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, the Today Show, and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  Her most recent book is Forked: A New Standard for American Dining (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Watch Saru’s keynote address at the Fall 2014 Board of Advisors Dinner for the Goldman School of Public Policy, arguing for increasing the minimum wage in what is now the second largest and fastest growing industry in the country.

Make a Gift

With your financial support to the Food Labor Research Center, you can join the fight for fair wages and better working conditions for the US food system’s 20 million workers. Please make your gift as a first step towards active involvement with the Center.