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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Margaret Levi
SOC 266
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/POL S 249.

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

introduction to a vast and interdisciplinary subject

improve writing skills

develop research capacity

service learning

develop familiarity with local labor communtiy

General method of instruction

Lectures and class discussion.

There will also be films and speakers

Recommended preparation

no prerequisite

Class assignments and grading

It is required to attend class, do the readings, and complete a class project (see below). Readings will include:

Nelson Lichtenstein, State of the Union Steven Greenhouse, The Big Squeeze Beverly Silver, Forces of Labor Gay Seidman, Beyond the Boycott Course packet with selected readings Some readings available on web site

1). 12.5% of grade: class participation. This includes weekly assignments in quiz sections as well as raising and responding to questions in class. It may also include interactions with Professor Levi or the T.A.s during office hours. We expect students to attend all lectures and sections. We shall be significantly reducing grades for chronic non-attendance.

2). 25% of grade. Mid-term exam.

3). 25% of grade. Final exam.

4). 37.5% of grade: Papers and paper presentations. 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 keep a weekly journal to be reviewed by T.A. A final paper of approximately 6-8 pages in length is required. Further details will follow.

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). Up to 10% extra credit for 2-3 page reports on films and readings listed at end of syllabus. Make arrangements with T.A. This credit can improve your grade.

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 Margaret Levi
Date: 11/05/2009