Anteaters complete Labor Summer internships

Labor Summer interns 2023

Inaugural group learns about organizing

Whether they were on the picket lines with hospitality workers, researching policy or helping to organize workers, the inaugural group of UC Irvine Labor Summer interns gained valuable lessons on the purpose of unions and experience that they plan to apply in their future endeavors.

“Being part of the hotel workers strike, I really learned that this is a real movement that affects real people and our actions are very consequential,” says criminology, law and society major Jacob Ramos, one of 19 UCI interns selected to take part in Labor Summer, an eight-week full-time University of California-wide paid internship program, which culminated with a graduation ceremony on Aug. 11.

Each UC campus that participated in Labor Summer attended the ceremony in Oakland. 

“We’re so proud of our interns,” Walter Nicholls, professor and chair of urban planning and public policy and one of the faculty leaders who helped establish the UCI Labor Center, told the audience at the graduation. “Orange County is a battleground in California and these students are really engaged in the forefront in a class struggle to achieve power for the working class in Southern California.”

Most of the interns completed their internships committed to pursuing positions in labor organizations after they earn their degrees.

“I want to work in labor law and I plan to apply to the National Labor Relations Board,” says Nic Guo, UCI Law student.

“I want to work in labor friendly spaces,” adds social ecology major Thi Le.

UCI is one of six UC campuses that established a labor center this year. 

The UCI Labor Center is modeled after existing centers at UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Merced. It builds upon previous campus efforts to investigate low-wage worker sectors in Orange County. 

UCI’s School of Social Ecology and School of Law are overseeing the center, which aims to boost the power of working people in Orange County and beyond by promoting, defending and expanding workers’ rights.

For the students, who worked with small and large unions throughout Orange County, the internships provided them opportunities to conduct research, learn about advocacy, policy innovation and outreach in support of workers in their efforts to create a fair and racially just worker-centered economy. 

The interns reported that the Labor Summer program prepared them well for their internships and future labor-related jobs. They learned about social and economic justice and explored the intersections of race, class, gender, and immigration in the labor movement.

Coordinated by the UC Berkeley Labor Center and sponsored by the San Francisco Labor Council, Labor Summer is designed to train the next generation of labor and community leaders. Aside from learning organizing skills and applying them in real-world settings, Ramos says he learned something even more important: “the hands-on work makes you a more compassionate person and it makes you love the labor movement as much as possible.”

The following are the students and recent graduates who made up the first cohort of UCI Labor Summer interns, their majors and the unions they worked for this summer:


  • Zaineb Aboud (’23 B.A. international studies),  United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
  • Gloria Baroi (’23 political science), UAW
  • Ziyi Chen, social ecology, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
  • Michelle Dong, social ecology, Unite Here Local 11
  • Thi Le, social ecology, Orange County Employees Association (OCEA)
  • Lauren Melvin (’23, political science and business economics), United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) 324
  • Aura Navarro, (’23 criminology, law and society and language science) NDLON
  • Mariana Nunez (’23 urban studies and criminology, law and society), OC Labor Federation (OCLF)
  • Jacob Ramos, criminology, law and society, Unite Here Local 11
  • Alejandro Martinez Santos, public health sciences, Harbor Institute
  • Makeda Telahun (’23 criminology, law and society and language science) OCLF 
  • Michelle Truong (’23 political science), OCEA
  • Hunter Ung, history, UFCW 324


  • Nancy Delgado, MPP, Unite Here Local 11
  • Sabrina Mesropian, MPP, Unite Here Local 11
  • Evan Schwartz (’23 MPP), Workers Unite Local 50


  • Nic Guo, Unite Here Local 11
  • Sandra Guzman, Workers Unite Local 50
  • Allysa Suhaidi, OCEA

Mimi Ko Cruz