This interdisciplinary course focuses on work and workers, with particular attention to the way politics, law, and collective action shape how work is performed and compensated. The focus is primarily on the United States, but some attention is also given to conditions in other countries. The course looks broadly at factors that shape worker compensation, autonomy, and wellbeing. The course looks at worker struggles to gain power and influence conditions in the workplace and society. The class offers perspectives on the formation, internal organization, and influence of worker organizations in different industries, national settings, and historical periods.
The class considers working conditions in today’s world of globalization and precarious employment.
The course puts current conditions in historical perspective by considering changes over time in technology and labor processes; international political economy; the racial, gender, and skill composition of the labor force; state repression and state tolerance of collective action; and employer opposition to unions and workers' rights. The course concludes by looking at some current efforts to resist unfair working conditions and assert worker voice in the workplace.