SMLR Brings Together 200 International Scholars To Discuss The Workplace

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please attribute photos to Steve Hockstein/Harvard Studio Photography. Additional photos of conference keynote speakers and attendees are available by request. Contact Renée Walker at or 848-445-7582.

Rutgers University Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Richard Edwards addresses ILPC attendees.
Rutgers SMLR Dean Susan J. Schurman welcomes more than 200 international scholars to the conference.
NYU Professor Andrew Ross is seen at the podium, addressing ILPC's many attendees.
"Study of the labor process has never been more relevant. The organization of work is rapidly mutating far beyond the package we used to call ‘standard employment.’ A labor process approach brings order to this unruly landscape and allows us to see the big picture," says Andrew Ross, New York University professor.
Professor Adrienne Eaton, Rutgers SMLR Chair of the Department of Labor Relations (on left), and Heather McKay, SMLR's Director of Innovative Training and Workforce Development Research  (on right), organized the 2013 ILPC in partnership with the ILPC's steering committee.
Rutgers SMLR Professor Rebecca Kolins Givan hands Maite Tapia with the award for best paper by a doctoral student.
ILPC's attendees join one of the 70 sessions offered.
The editors of Body/Sex/Work celebrate their book launch. From left, Ann Stewart, Kate Hardy, Janet Miller, Carol Wolkowitz, and Gemma Wibberley.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – More than 200 leading international academic researchers, experts, and policy makers came together to present their research and engage in critical discussions on today’s workplace during the 31st Annual International Labour Process Conference (ILPC) on March 18-20, 2013, hosted by the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Approximately 16 different countries were represented by scholars from the sociology of work and employment, business and management studies, human resource management, industrial relations, and organizational analysis. Academics gathered within New Brunswick’s George Street Playhouse and Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Policy, where they delved into several, wide-ranging topics on employment relations.

"Study of the labor process has never been more relevant. The organization of work is rapidly mutating far beyond the package we used to call ‘standard employment.’ A labor process approach brings order to this unruly landscape and allows us to see the big picture," says Andrew Ross, New York University professor of social and cultural analysis, who gave the ILPC’s keynote address. An esteemed researcher, Ross is a contributor to the Nation, the Village Voice, New York Times, and Artforum. He is the author of many books, including Nice Work if You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times and Bird On Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City.

The three-day conference consisted of more than 70 sessions during which attendees were able to present their papers on the most recent issues and research affecting work and open the floor for debate and analysis. Topics included how working longer can affect women undergoing menopause, new and alternative forms of organizing to further employees’ rights at work, and social justice and the relationship between the Chinese middle and working classes.

Maite Tapia, a Ph.D. student at Cornell University won the conference’s highest award—best paper written by a doctoral student. Tapia was honored for her paper, “Evaluating community organizing: does the context matter? Evidence from the U.S., Germany and UK.”

“This is a great conference, especially for young people to present their work, and I am very honored to receive this award. The ILPC is one of the few conferences left with a strong labor focus, so it's been a terrific opportunity to meet scholars with similar interests,” says Maite Tapia, whose paper on evaluating community organizing is part of her doctoral dissertation. “In my paper, I examine how in times of tremendous union decline, alternative forms of collective representation, such as community organizations, can work successfully in very different countries.”

Doctoral students Peter Ikeler from the City University of New York and Xu Yi from Sun Yat-sen University were runners-up and recognized for their outstanding work. Ikeler’s paper, “From Taylorism to Toyotism in the Retail Sector?,” compares work in traditional and discount department stores. Xu Yi’s paper is focused on “labor rights and trans-border anti-sweatshop activism across Hong Kong and Mainland China.”

In addition to the presentations, the conference was highlighted by the launch of the book, Body/Sex/Work:Intimate, embodied and sexualised labour, edited by Carol Wolkowitz, Rachel Lara Cohen, Teela Sanders, and Kate Hardy. Body/Sex/Work brings together an internationally renowned group of academics to explore, empirically and theoretically, labour processes, workplace relations, regulation, and resistance in some of the many work sites that make up the body work and sex work sectors.

Ruth Milkman, professor of sociology at the City University of New York and academic director of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education at the School of Professional Studies, gave the many international academics in attendance an overview of labor in the United States. Milkman is a sociologist of labor and labor movements and has written on a variety of topics involving past and present work and organized labor in the U.S. During her talk, she addressed the changing nature of union membership—a “new Guilded Age”—where workers fear going on strike and being replaced and there is also a lack of union representation where people work.

“In 2011, U.S. private sector union density was 6.9%, the lowest level since 1900,” says Milkman, quoting recent statistics. Despite the decline in traditional union membership, Milkman noted that alternative ways of organizing are seen in the immigrant rights movement and Occupy Wall Street, both of which have successfully energized workers to unite.

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations’ Director of Innovative Training and Workforce Development Research and Programs Heather McKay and Professor Adrienne Eaton organized the International Labour Process Conference in collaboration with the ILPC’s steering groups. McKay says, “I think it is wonderful that we were able to house the conference and bring together top international and American scholars here at Rutgers to build relationships that can further our work.”

This is the second time that Rutgers is hosting the ILPC, with the first occurring in 2010. During that event, the conference board was so impressed by Rutgers, its New Brunswick locale, and close proximity to New York that it decided to include Rutgers in its global rotation, which includes England, Scotland, Sweden, and Ireland.

“The ILPC sheds light on the many ways in which work impacts our lives and how workers’ rights affects everyone on a global scale and, in particular, on the decline in working conditions around the globe and on efforts to reverse that decline,” says Rutgers University Professor Adrienne Easton.


One of the longest established and best known forums, the International Labour Process Conference has earned a reputation as a cornerstone of empirical research and cutting-edge theoretical debate within the labor process and work organization tradition. For details, visit


Rutgers' School of Management and Labor Relations is the leading source of expertise on the world of work, building effective and sustainable organizations, and the changing employment relationship. The school is comprised of two departments—one focused on all aspects of strategic human resource management and the other dedicated to the social science specialties related to labor studies and employment relations. In addition, SMLR provides many continuing education and certificate programs taught by world-class researchers and expert practitioners. For more information on the school, visit

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