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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Margaret Levi
POL S 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 HIST 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. The first part of the course focuses on work and workers in the US. The second half turns to the international arena and concludes with an exploration of those who produce in global supply chains.

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

introduce students to a broad, interdisciplinary subject

improve writing ability

develop research ability

familiarity with the local labor community

service learning opportunity

General method of instruction

Lecture and discussion. There will be films, speakers, service learning, and independent research projects in addition to the normal reading requirements and classroom lectures.

Recommended preparation

Attendence is required as is completion of the readings.

All required readings are available from the UW Bookstore. There will also be a course packet

Class assignments and grading

Text: Fantasia and Voss, Hard Times; Steven Greenhouse, The Big Squeeze; Gay Seidman, Beyond the Boycott; Beverly Silver, The Forces of Labor.

Assignments: There will be a mid-term, a final, and a paper. Those in service learning will have somewhat different paper requirements than those engaged in a research paper.


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.
Additional Information
Last Update by Margaret Levi
Date: 11/08/2010