Labor Studies Courses

(bachelor level, 3 credits, liberal)

Chaplains find their ministry in many different settings, including churches, the military, hospitals, work places, police and emergency services, and prisons. What sets labor chaplains apart is that their ministry is based in part on the conviction that the spiritual well-being of each individual worker is bound up with and affected by the respect and care afforded them at work, and by the community of workers of which they are a part. The course provides interested students with an opportunity to consider the role chaplaincy in the labor movement and to learn how to be more effective workplace chaplains. It takes for granted that the labor movement has a responsibility for the spiritual, as well as
the material well-being of working people and that therefore chaplains have an important, if too much neglected, role to play in the labor movement.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

Our identity is influenced by how we look at ourselves – as men and women, as working or middle class, as white or black or some other racial and/or ethnic mix, as a citizen or an “illegal” immigrant. It also is shaped by the way society perceives us, puts us into certain groups. Indeed, since they often build off existing patterns of economic, social and political inequality, these broader social perceptions shape our opportunities for a full life. This course explores the interaction between our individual lives and broader historical process and structural patterns. In doing so, students delve into the “problem of solidarity.” Unionists know that solidarity is the basis for strength. However, it is not something that can be taken for granted. It is an imaginative process, an active intellectual struggle, in which working men and women of all backgrounds discover and re-discover common ground.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal, fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

In the Collective Bargaining course, we will study the roles of all of the participants in the proceedings – both union and management, and the roles of those in authority they are responsible to, the bargaining committee’s responsibility to their constituents, and what kind of effect those constituents can have on the outcome of bargaining. Among the topics that will be explored will be the law as it effects the bargaining process, the duty to bargain, different tactics in bargaining, impasses, strike and lockouts, management rights, union rights and responsibilities, costing out of contracts, the mediation and arbitration processes, dispute resolution procedure, basic labor law and the history of labor unions in this country.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal, fulfills the Basic Communication SUNY General Education Requirements)

College Writing provides students with the opportunity to spend a semester working intensively on their writing and writing process. While there is a fair amount of reading to be done in this class, it is important to keep in mind that this is primarily a writing course. To this end, the goals of this course are: introduce students to the use of writing as a meaning-making tool; increase students’ fluency of the written word; engage students in all stages of the writing process; introduce students to a range of writing styles and forms.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal, fulfills the Humanities SUNY General Education Requirements)

College Reading provides students the opportunity to read and examine a variety of texts--nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. The course is designed to build your reading ability--to help students get through texts that are challenging or boring, to help students read more quickly, and to learn strategies to help students read with the analytic eye that instructors expect. Students will learn both how to slow down their reading to catch the content in a difficult passage and how to speed up reading a long assignment.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Sciences SUNY General Education Requirements. May be a 20-credit capstone course.)

One of the most pressing issues facing working people today is health care – how to get it, keep it and pay for it. The costs of health care are skyrocketing and more and more costs are being pushed off on to working families. The United States spends twice as much per person on health care compared with other industrialized countries, yet we are not healthier and we don’t have better outcomes. The U.S. has 46 million uninsured people and is the only major industrial country without universal health care. Why is this so? This course focuses on why the economics of health care is so different from the economics of any other commodity, the history of the health care industry, and the health care models used in other countries.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal, fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

This study pushes the “immigration debate” away from its current focus. Looking at immigration as an historical, political and economic process, the course takes on common assumptions about undocumented workers: that they are here for handouts, don’t pay taxes, or don’t make any contributions to the economy as a whole. It then assesses recent literature that argues for policies that might break the current deadlock, which leaves undocumented workers ever more vulnerable to exploitation.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal)

The trade union movement in the United States originated during the early years of the republic. As in other counties, skilled workers were the first to organize and form unions. From 1880 to 1950, union membership grew to an all-time high, representing over one-third of the workforce. While today roughly 32 percent of the public sector workforce is unionized, in the private sector union density is at 6.7 percent, leaving total density at just over 11 percent. This course examines the key forces, facts, figures, institutions and individuals that help explain the rise and decline of U.S. unionization. The course also looks at recent working-class campaigns and organizing efforts with an eye towards a roadmap for a rejuvenated labor movement.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the American History SUNY General Education Requirements)

The American Labor Movement was directly or partially responsible for enormous changes in American society in the 20th century. Unions raised the wages, improved the living standards and increased the opportunities for millions of workers and their families. Unions negotiated the first paid vacation benefits, health insurance and pensions for workers. Nonunion employers still offer these benefits to keep up with demands made by unions elsewhere. Unions helped build the New Deal welfare state of the 1930s that included social security, minimum wages and the elimination of child labor. Unions lobbied for public housing and higher education. Many unions supported the Civil Rights movement and other social justice causes. Indeed, to study the U.S. labor movement is not just to study union organizing, collective bargaining and labor legislation. This is a study of how it has impacted the way workers lived their lives, what they thought and the role the working class played in American society.

(20-credit and bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

The dynamics and makeup of our workplaces, communities, industry and union are rapidly changing. How a culture is constructed, defined and perceived has a powerful and lasting impact on the future of electrical work and trade unions. Drawing from fiction, published reports, scholarly journals, guest speakers, discussions and films, this class will analyze the impacts and dynamics of culture – of race, gender, orientation, nationality and power at work. How is culture constructed at the workplace, in your union and community? What are the costs of defining who is “in”? What have unions done to respond to changing social dynamics and what are the bedrock principles of solidarity leading us forward?

(20-credit and bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

The economics of any industry involves four major players: consumers, workers, employers and the government. Each group plays different but interconnected roles. This course explores the history, present circumstances and possible futures of workplace relations with special attention to the circumstances faced by contractors and journey workers in the construction industry. Issues are examined from both labor and management, and union and nonunion perspectives.

(20-credit and bachelor level, 5 credits, liberal)

The purpose of Educational Planning for Labor Studies is for each student to design and complete a degree program that will
1) fulfill the college’s degree requirements, and, 2) allow the choosing of degree-related courses of interest. Students have the option of choosing to pursue a bachelor’s degree in labor studies or enroll in the 20-credit program. Students will develop their educational plans in the context of investigating trade unions as collective organizations, fundamental to a democratic society. The course asks students to consider and discuss the challenges working people and union members face in today’s economy and the role of the critical/intellectual “skills” that one acquires through a liberal arts based college education in meeting these challenges. Within this context, the course asks students to consider and discuss the purpose and role of a college education – particularly for working people and union members.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, nonliberal; not open to 20 credit students)

It is often said that “Cost estimating is an art, not a science” – and that there is legitimate disagreement as to what constitutes reasonable costs even when plans, specifications, site and labor and material costs are identical for all bidders. This course introduces students to estimating for the general construction trades, as well as to the review of construction procedures and trade practices. Students examine management techniques from the standpoint of bid preparation, take-off and bid submissions.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal, fulfills Other World Civilizations SUNY General Education Requirements)

This course offers an introductory but also systematic study of world history – the story of human habitation and human diversity from earliest times to the present. Too often, world history is told as if each society or nation-state or region functioned as a discrete political, economic and cultural unit, its success or failure over time determined by some inherent strength or weakness. In this class the goal is to explore different perspectives. We will examine how environmental circumstances gave some societies advantages that others lacked. Students also will study the hows and whys of the rise and fall of regional civilizations by paying close attention to the connections – created by trade, conquest, and the exploitation of nature and labor – between these civilizations.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills Other World Civilizations SUNY General Education Requirements)

This course offers a unique perspective on the history of the Modern Middle East.  Most overviews of the region focus on a narrative of religious or cultural conflict, while leaving out or marginalizing processes of political and economic development, including the complex role played by labor and the working classes of the region. Here students will critically assess the political, economic and cultural history of the modern Middle East.  And by placing labor at the center of that history, students will gain an appreciation for what connects their own experience as trade unionists and workers with that of the unionists and workers of the Middle East.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills The Arts SUNY General Education Requirements)

This study is primarily concerned with contemporary public art primarily in New York City with some focus on works made for the worker and/or a working class consciousness either through studying the work of others or by the creation of the student’s own creative project. The assigned readings and presentations introduce the complex relationship between aesthetics and the development and life of the city in public art, and its ever-changing relationship with architecture and urban planning. Students will consider issues such as the importance of the role of art and artists in society, how public art addresses – or is addressed – by issues of race, class, and gender. We also shall study the hierarchical relationships between craft and art and how the students own electricians trade might be considered or reconsidered.

(associate level, 3 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Sciences SUNY General Education Requirements)

Increasing inequality is the most severe it has ever been and it effects all aspects of our lives – our jobs, wages, hours of work, the education and health of our children and families, and the kinds of help we can expect from our government. All women, but especially immigrant and women of color, are experiencing this economic reality in particular ways. In this course we will look at the economic transformation in women’s lives  more women are supporting their families, more women work in the growing service sector which tends to have the lowest paying jobs, more work that used to be done in the home – care for children and the elderly – is being relegated to the market. While some women have made tremendous economic strides most women are still struggling. We need to have an accurate understanding of women’s economic and political realities in order to have an impact on public policy and on the kind of society we envision for our families.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal, fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

This course provides students with the tools that are necessary for understanding the economy in general and the economic conditions of an industry such as the construction industry. What is economic efficiency and when is a particular market, either a labor market or the market for a specific product, efficient? Is it true that everything depends upon “supply and demand”? If so, how are supply and demand determined? How are prices, wages and profits determined? Why is full employment not ever permanent? The course also provides the tools required to analyze the proper role of the government and the effect of its finances on the economy in general and on the construction industry in particular. The effects of labor laws (e.g., minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and “right to work” laws), the provision of governmental services (e.g., public transportation, schools, infrastructure), and of full-employment policies on the economy in general and on the conditions of workers and management in the construction in industry in particular are examined. The issues involved with taxation by the different levels of government also are explored.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal, fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)             

This course provides students with the tools that are necessary for understanding the economy in general and the economic conditions of an industry such as the construction industry. What is economic efficiency and when is a particular market, either a labor market or the market for a specific product, efficient? Is it true that everything depends upon “supply and demand”? If so, how are supply and demand determined? How are prices, wages and profits determined? Why is full employment not ever permanent? The course also provides the tools required to analyze the proper role of the government and the effect of its finances on the economy in general and on the construction industry in particular. The effects of labor laws (e.g., minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and “right to work” laws), the provision of governmental services (e.g., public transportation, schools, infrastructure), and of full-employment policies on the economy in general and on the conditions of workers and management in the construction in industry in particular are examined. The issues involved with taxation by the different levels of government also are explored.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

In this course, students will explore the role of labor in the political process of the U.S. both historically and what’s happening today. Students will be required to engage in and work with a campaign – for a candidate running for either local or national office or a campaign for a referendum question. Topics covered in the course will include: the presidential electoral process, the issues and arguments in this campaign cycle, what should labor seek from candidates, the relationship between the Democrats and labor, the role of volunteerism in a campaign, and how campaigns fit into the future of the Labor Movement Labor in this country.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

This course is designed to help students develop their research, written and oral communication skills as they learn about current economic, political and social issues important for working people. The guiding context for this course is how the winners in our economic system have come to thoroughly dominate our politics, exacerbating both the economic gap between the wealthy and the rest, and the political gap between what the majority of the public – the working and middle classes – want from their political system and what they actually get. As we read though the texts and articles, we will discuss the main themes, understand the arguments, and grasp the empirical evidence presented in preparation for student’s choosing a topic and presenting it to their peers.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

This course will provide a thorough overview of the laws governing labor and employment relations with an emphasis on private sector unions. the purpose of the course is to (a) familiarize students with an array of laws affecting the workplace and worker rights, and (b) develop your understanding of how these legal concepts are practiced in the real world. the goal of the course is to provide students with a basic understanding of the relevant laws as well as the necessary legal skills to work effectively as an employee and union member.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

Today the power of unions is challenged by growing inequality, globalization, emerging technologies, as well as changes in the law and in the structure of industries and work. These developments have spawned demands for stronger, more visionary leadership in unions. Drawing on a variety of social science and historic research, this course applies leadership and organizational theories to a union context in order to examine and analyze the leadership models, practices, and approaches we find in contemporary unions that lead to successful democratic unions.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

This course examines the development of workplace relations in the building trades from both a union and nonunion perspective. It familiarizes the student with an array of laws affecting the construction workplace, as well as the jurisdictional issues that frame the obligations of labor unions in the building trades and shape the realities they face. Students also will examine the complexities of labor-management cooperation on the job, the process of negotiations between labor and management, and the impact of labor organizing.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

This course provides students with an overview of the rise of collective bargaining in public education, primarily in New York City and New York state, but also nationally. It focuses, in particular, on the effect unionization and collective bargaining on students, teachers, administrators and school systems. In addition to examining existing models of unionization, students also will consider alternative forms of work organization and “stakeholder relations” in schools, which proponents claim will encourage continued improvement in the schools and be increasingly relevant to the emerging knowledge economy.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Humanities SUNY General Education Requirements)

“Literature and Society” provides an opportunity to read novels, poems, and plays about the experiences of working people, and the dramatic situations that their work can create for them. The texts discussed in this course are chosen for the unique stories they tell about individuals attempting to improve their own living situations, and the challenges they face from friends, enemies and the social structures around them. It allows students to consider the struggles of (primarily) fictional characters and the efforts required to bring resolution to their personal challenges.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal)

The course focuses on the planning and building of two generations of the World Trade Center: the original twin towers and the new Freedom Tower complex. How did these extraordinary feats of engineering and construction grow out of Lower Manhattan, once a great port and epicenter of global finance? And what can these towers – built on a site where natural forces and human conflict repeatedly intersect – tell us about the history and possible futures of the city our labor makes real?

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

There are two schools of thought about trade unions. Some see them as necessary organizations of wage earners that help make our society work better. Others see them as illegitimate “monopolies” or “special interests” that benefit their members at the expense of the general public. In this course students learn what unions are, how they operate, who organizes them and why, and what they are doing (or propose to do) to make sure that the United States remains a great place to live – for everyone!

(bachelor level, 4 credits, nonliberal; not open to 20-credit students)

Project management is the overall planning, co-ordination and control of a project from inception to completion aimed at meeting a client’s requirements in order to produce a functionally and financially viable project that will be completed on time within authorized cost and to the required quality standards. Project management is the process by which a project is brought to a successful conclusion. The purpose of project management is to manage and to ensure the most efficient way of utilization of limited resources (budget, time, labor, material, etc.) such that the output would be maximized. Construction project management (CPM) is project management that applies to the construction sector.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

Globalization is a term that we hear or read about almost every day in the media. Some say globalization is inevitable and good for the economy and should be encouraged; others say globalization is detrimental to society and must be controlled. “The Global Workplace” will explore a variety of basic questions that surround this debate: What exactly is globalization? What are the causes of globalization? Is globalization beneficial or detrimental for working people? How do we see the future of globalization? What should labor’s response be to globalization?

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal, fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

This course examines New York City’s economy and the role of politics in directing its growth and distributing its rewards. Its hinge is the Fiscal Crisis of 1975, an event that marked a dramatic shift in the way city government planned for economic growth, interacted with the private sector, and served the people of New York. More specifically, course readings, brief lectures and class discussions will focus on the forces that have shaped life in the city before, during and after the Fiscal Crisis: the labor movement; public sector institutions; the real estate industry; a widening gap between rich and poor; the privatization of public services.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

The objective of this course is to understand the origin, nature, and future of the U.S. labor movement through different theoretical lenses and comparative approaches. The course analyzes the role played by trade unions in American society and explores the historical and institutional factors that have shaped the U.S. labor movement. The course also introduces contemporary debates on the economic and political challenges facing American trade unions and the potential solutions to revive the labor movement.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the History SUNY General Education Requirements)

The course introduces students to examine American history through the struggles and victories of American workers. The American Revolution, the Civil War, Immigration and the Creation of the Working Class and the post-World War II era are the four key sections in history that will be examined. Working with primary documents, scholarly articles, and handouts, students explore the consequences and contested meaning of key episodes paying special attention to the role of working people in the development of the relative prosperity of the economy and the democratic inspiration of the country’s governing institutions.

(associate level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills The Arts SUNY General Education Requirements)

During this class, we will explore through different mediums the relevance art in its various forms can have to labor. How are workers and labor visually represented in culture? How can we make new representations and other creative works that can have impact? When and why is the worker an artist and what’s the value to the worker of laying claim to art?

Course Objective: To generate complex responses (in written, visual and spoken forms) to labor’s relation to its own depiction, as well as to generate participation in creative works.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Humanities and Basic Communication SUNY General Education Requirements)

Participants in this class examine the ways that the working class has (and hasn’t) been portrayed in literary works. In particular, students read novels that illustrate the lives of working-class characters and their relationship to big business, industry, politicians, scientists and society at large. The purpose of the class is not so much to learn literary critique and analysis, as it is to think about, discuss and write about how the working-class has (and hasn’t) been portrayed in literature.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Social Science SUNY General Education Requirements)

The guiding focus of this course is to understand why reforms and responses in the workplace are needed that address the economic and familial needs of working people. The course will explore why family-related needs should not be viewed as the individual and personal problems of workers – primarily women – but be folded into a wider economic context addressed by social policies. The majority of women continue to work in a small number of occupations, typically lower-paid; and the percent of women working in the trades has not increased significantly in a decade. The course will explore why job segregation and family needs being labeled as “women’s issues” are related and why they can be located within women’s and men’s historical role in the family.

(bachelor level, 4 credits, liberal; fulfills the Humanities and Basic Communication SUNY General Education Requirements)

In this course, we will be putting together an anthology of your writing to be used in the next sections of the College Writing course. Your task will be to produce a piece of publishable, researched, nonfiction writing about labor. All the work we do this semester – reading, writing, researching and discussing – will be towards the production of this book. In some way or another, all of you will be writing about work, about the process of work or about the routines of work, or about the locations of work – work that you are familiar with and know about. You will write about things you take for granted, that you never think about, and you will write about them in ways that enlighten your readers, get them thinking about that which they have never noticed.

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