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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Amanda B Clayton-Dye
HIST 249
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Labor Studies

Conceptual and theoretical issues in the study of labor and work. Role of labor in national and international politics. Formation of labor movements. Historical and contemporary role of labor in the modern world. Offered: jointly with POL S 249/SOC 266.

Class description

This interdisciplinary course focuses on workers-employed and unemployed, legal and illegal-and their strategies to improve their employment and political conditions, especially through unions. The class offers various perspectives on the formation, internal organization, and influence of labor organizations in different industries, national settings, and historical periods. It considers changes in: the labor process; the international political economy; the racial, gender, and skill composition of the labor force; the power of workers; and the opposition to unions and workers’ rights. It addresses alternatives to unions in promoting worker rights and interests. Experiences of west coast workers and their unions will supplement the readings to clarify the relationship between theory and the actual experience of work and unions.

Because the aim is to introduce students to a broad and vast subject, there will be films, service learning, and independent research projects in addition to the normal reading requirements and classroom lectures.

Student learning goals

Students will have a clear understanding of the role of labor organizations in US history.

Students will be able to write a well-conceived independent research paper on a topic involving US or international labor.

Students will have the opportunity to complete a service learning project which will expose them to a local labor organization.

General method of instruction

Because the aim is to introduce students to a broad and vast subject, there will be films, service learning, and independent research projects in addition to the normal reading requirements and classroom lectures.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Assignments will consist of reports on the reading during several weeks of the quarter, a take-home mid-term, an in-class final, and a final research paper.


1). 10% of grade: class participation. This includes raising and responding to questions in lecture an/or communicating with the grader or professor during office hours. We expect students to attend all lectures and sections.

2). 25% of grade. Mid-term. This will be a take-home and open-book essay examination based on the readings and lectures of the first 5 weeks of class. Examinations should be typed and double-spaced. No collaboration on the writing of the examinations is permitted.

3). 15% of grade. Final exam. This is likely to take the format of several short-answer questions. The final exam takes place on

4). 30% of grade: Research papers. Students may opt for one of the following:

a). Community service for an average of 3-4 hours a week during the quarter (10 weeks) with a union or other organization dedicated to improving working, living, and health conditions for workers (broadly defined). Descriptions of options are in a separate packet. Students must provide a 2-page reflection midway through the quarter. A final paper of approximately 5-7 pages in length is required. Further details will follow. (See discussion of Service-Learning on pp. 3-4 of syllabus)

b). A research paper on a labor action, organizing effort, or an important piece of labor legislation. The subject can be recent or historical, and it can have occurred anywhere in the world. The student will have to engage in library research or in interviewing, or both. The paper must be 10-15 pages long. Students who choose this option must submit a 4-page proposal and bibliography in the seventh week of class.

5) 20% of grade: weekly papers. These must be turned in by Friday during seven weeks of the course and must be on reading material assigned during that week. One of these may be made up as an extra credit.

6). Up to 0.1 on top of grade for extra credit for 1-2 page reports on lectures, conferences, films and readings listed on the class web site. One extra credit may be a write up of an article of a current event in labor studies from a reputable newspaper or magazine, such as the New York Times, Wall Street Review, The Economist, or Newsweek. Each write-up turned in is worth 0.25 grade points. Students may turn in up to four in order to achieve the maximum 0.1 grade point addition. Make arrangements with grader.

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Amanda B Clayton-Dye
Date: 11/15/2011