The Major and Minor

In honor of Labor Day, this week’s featured program is the major and minor in Labor Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. From the website: 

Labor Studies is an interdisciplinary program that examines work, the workplace, workers, and their organizations. Drawing on the fields of economics, history, political science, sociology and other disciplines, courses in Labor Studies deal with such questions as:

      • What roles do unions play in affecting the well-being of workers and of society more generally? How and why have those roles changed over the course of economic development in the United States and elsewhere?
      • How do changes in the global economy affect work and workers?
      • In the history of the United States and other countries, how have workers’ rights changed over time? How have broad political and economic developments affected those rights?
      • What opportunities and challenges do workers face as racial, gender, and ethnic diversity changes in the labor force?
      • What are effective methods of worker organizing and of collective bargaining by unions? How are organizing and the practices of unions affected by changes in the larger society?

By focusing on these sorts of questions, the UMass Boston Labor Studies Program prepares students to provide critical analysis of historical controversies and to think strategically about social, political, and economic change. The program provides students with a strong foundation for a variety of occupations, and also prepares students to be active participants in their own labor and community organizations. Indeed, students, faculty, and staff in Labor Studies are often members of and active participants in the organized labor movement and related social justice organizations.

All students in the major take the introductory Labor and Working Class History course; choose one of four foundational courses in economics, American studies, or history; a research methods course; and complete a senior capstone. Students choose from a variety of Labor Studies courses and courses in related fields to round out the major. Students minoring in Labor Studies also take the introductory Labor and Working Class History course, and then complete the minor by choosing five electives from courses in Labor Studies and related fields.

Two Interesting Courses

LABOR 325 Workers’ Rights and Human Rights

This course not only explores how diverse groups of working people from around the world have understood and defended their rights over time, but examines the historical evolution and relationship between what came to be understood as ”workers’ rights’ and ”human rights.” How have the very notions of workers’ rights and human rights changed over time, what has their relationship been, and how have these understandings shaped the efforts by various actors to both defend and attack the rights of working people? How has the understanding, application, and defense of rights been shaped by race, gender, nationality, and class?

LABOR 335 Globalization and Labor

This course examines a number of global dynamics that have prevented trade unions and workers from developing world-wide solidarity; the negative impact these dynamics have had on the power, rights, and living conditions of workers; and current strategies to overcome these dynamics. In particular, the course focuses on critiquing and developing strategies whereby US workers can work to strengthen the rights of workers and unions outside of the United States, the importance of such strategies, and the difficulties of undertaking them.

Five Possible Complementary Majors or Minors at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Unique Opportunities within the Major

Students majoring in Labor Studies can choose, for their senior capstone to complete a field placement:

Students majoring or minoring in Labor Studies may elect, with advisor approval, to complete a field placement with a labor union or worker organization. Applicants for Field Placement must be in good academic standing with a GPA of 2.5 or better. Union placements may include the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, the state federation of many Mass. Unions; regional associations such as the Greater Boston, Merrimack Valley or North Shore Labor Councils; SEIU Local 615, representing service workers; Teamsters Local 25, representing transportation and warehouse workers; or others. Examples of worker organizations offering placements include the Massachusetts coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), Jobs with Justice and Community Labor United. A field Placement is an opportunity for students who are considering the field as a career to apply classroom knowledge in practice while gaining experience and networking within the labor movement.

Sample Similar Programs