Course Description for M.A. Labor and Policy Studies

Required Courses

Policy Process

This course, taken along with the Labor Emphasis Seminar in the first term of study, introduces you to models of policy analysis and to debates about contemporary policy issues. All students will examine selected public policy issues in such areas as environmental or economic policy. Individual students will then study public policy issues which interest them, for example, education policy, social welfare policy, civil rights policy, tax policy or health-care policy, labor law reform, trade policy, occupational safety and health policy. This course is residency-based.

Work and Labor Studies

This course is the introductory course for labor and policy studies. It is designed to provide a context for the discussion of current labor policy by reviewing labor history, collective bargaining, labor law and the structure and government of the trade unions. It considers the current economic, political and industrial relations context of current policy debates. It also considers the recent context for new policy debates in industrial relations and human resource management. This course is residency-based.

History of Labor and Policy

This course focuses on the economic crisis of the 1930s and the development of the labor movement and labor law and labor policy in this period. The course covers major changes in the labor movement and labor policy since 1930 and considers the differences and similarities between the crisis of the 1930s and today. This course is residency-based.

Current Issues Facing Labor

How is labor dealing with the new challenges it faces in organizing, bargaining and servicing members and acting politically? Among the challenges are those posed by increasing numbers of immigrants, women and young workers in the work force. At the bargaining table, the challenges include demands for wage cuts, two-tiered wages and benefits, cuts in healthcare and other benefits. There are new demands from employers and employees for family care and flex-time. There are bargaining partners who face bankruptcy and government and union-sponsored bailouts. What has the recent split in the AFL-CIO and the emergence of a new federation, Change To Win, meant for labor’s organizing and political action?

Labor Law

This course considers the history and principles of federal labor relations law and its relevance to both private- and public-sector labor relations. The text is that prepared by the Labor Law Section of the American Bar Association and is the standard authority in the field. We will gain an overview of labor law and the parameters of decision making, as established legislatively, and by the National Labor Relations Board and the courts, which have guided the course of labor law in the United States. This course also will consider the importance of certain public-sector labor and employment laws, including the Taylor Law in New York state.

Policy Formation in Unions

For the past decade, unions have faced demanding times: declining memberships; corporate restructuring; demands for concessions; hostile government policies; failures of labor law; open union busting; foreign competition; new technology; and growing numbers of women, minority and part-time workers. The purpose of this course is to examine some of the recent problems faced by union policymakers and some of the new policies that they are developing to deal with these problems.

The Sociology of Work: Human Resources

The course will provide the student with an overview of some of the main topics associated with the social organization of work. We will begin by exploring the historical foundations of the contemporary workplace and draw on the theories of Karl Marx, Max Weber, Frederick Taylor and Harry Braverman, who will provide a conceptual understanding of workplace relations. In the second part of the course, we will look at the question of social class and how this structures one's opportunities in the workplace and outside it. We also will explore the question of the global economy, types of work and the routinization of work. In the third part of the course, we will turn our attention to exploring contemporary research on the workplace as it affects family life, and think about the ways in which inequality is perpetuated through contemporary arrangements of paid and unpaid labor, as well as more generally, the question of balancing work and family life. A guiding question throughout the course will be, "What is the impact of work on human relationships, and in particular, how are forms of social inequality produced and perpetuated in the workplace and how are human relations structured in these workplace settings?"

Research Methods

The purpose of this course is to prepare you for the research and writing that you will undertake in your final project. The course will examine a variety of research approaches, including survey research, interviews and historical research. The course will acquaint you with the expectations of graduate research in terms of writing style and documentation. You will write surveys of related literature and do bibliographic research on the topic of your final project.

Elective Courses

You choose three elective courses (9 credits) to reflect your interests and to reinforce the individual focus of your degree. You are encouarged to use your electives to build a concentration around your final project topic.

Examples of elective courses include, but are not limited to:

  • Theories of the Labor Movement - 3 credits
  • Occupational Health and Safety in the Modern Workplace - 3 credits
  • Labor and International Economy - 3 credits
  • Environment, Labor and the Community - 3 credits
  • Women Working in a Global Context - 3 credits
  • Citizen and State: Contemporary American Politics - 3 credits
  • Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector - 3 credits
  • New York State Government and Politics - 3 credits

Final Project (6 credits completed over two terms)

The final project is the culmination of your program and it reinforces the unique focus of your degree. The project may be a thesis, position paper, case study, collection of related papers or practicum. Completion of the final project requires an oral defense and final approval by the dean of graduate studies.