Labor Studies & Employment Relations

Labor Unions and Social Movements

Do you want to help people achieve dignity at work—along with better treatment and a higher standard of living? Are you intrigued by recent social movements—some of which are from the political right and some of which are from the left? Do you realize that New Jersey is one of the most unionized states in the United States and that by studying unions you can have excellent employment opportunities?

Careers Related to Labor Unions and Social Movements

Union organizer or staff representative. Some people find their life’s passion in helping other people form a union, and union organizer is one of the entry-level jobs open to graduates with a concentration in Labor Unions and Social Movements. Higher level positions include staff representatives, who negotiate contracts, train union activists, lobby public agencies, and help employees who have grievances. A Master of Labor and Employment Relations (MLER) degree is a good starting point for a staff representative position, including our five-year combined bachelor’s/master’s program.

Labor relations specialist. Labor relations professionals work for private and public organizations that have union-represented employees. They negotiate contracts for the employer, handle grievances, interface with human resource departments, and attempt to prevent future labor relations problems. Some also work for associations of employers. Although a MLER or law degree is usually required for these positions, the undergraduate program is an excellent place to start.

Researcher. Unions, interest organizations, think-tanks, and universities all employ researchers. Research is web-based, involves fieldwork, surveys, and/or data analysis—and may or may not be combined with public policy advocacy. Unions, for example, need people who can analyze a corporation’s financial situation. In this concentration you will be exposed to the research methods classes needed for entry-level researcher positions. For higher level positions, further graduate study (such as a MLER degree) can also be helpful.

Labor relations agency staff. Neutral public agencies regulate the field of labor and employment relations, run representation elections, and help resolve labor disputes. The National Labor Relations Board, the NJ Public Employment Relations Commission, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service all are agencies of this type. An undergraduate concentration in Labor Unions and Social Movements is the place to start if you want a career as a “neutral” in such an agency. Earning your Master of Labor and Employment Relations (consider our five-year bachelor’s/master’s program) can greatly expand the opportunities available to you in this area.

What is required?

  • For the major concentration:

    To complete a concentration in Labor Unions and Social Movements, you must fulfill all the requirements of the major, including four courses from the course list below.

  • For the minor:

    To complete a minor in Labor Unions and Social Movements, six courses are required. You must take either Introduction to Labor Studies and Employment Relations (37:575:100) or Work, Society, and the Quality of Life (37:575:110), any four courses from the list below, and one other course offered by the Labor Studies and Employment Relations Department.

  • Courses specific to the Labor Unions and Social Movements Concentration or Minor:


    Must take at least four:
    37:575:201 Development of the Labor Movement I
    37:575:202 Development of the Labor Movement II
    37:575:207 NJ Labor History
    37:575:310 Labor Relations in Professional Sports
    37:575:314 Collective Bargaining
    37:575:319 Leadership and Governance of Labor Unions
    37:575:322 American Labor Unions in Politics
    37:575:335 Women and the Labor Movement in the U.S. and Globally
    37:575:340 American Labor Law
    37:575:350 Public Sector Collective Bargaining
    37:575:357 Social Movements, Social Change, and Work
    37:575:359 Organizing for Social Change
    37:575:360 Union Organizing

Department Faculty with Considerable Teaching or Research in this Area

David Bensman, Professor, Ph.D, Columbia
Will Brucher, Instructor, Ph.D., Brown
Tracy Chang, Associate Professor, Ph.D, Iowa
Dorothy Sue Cobble, Professor II, Ph.D, Stanford
Adrienne Eaton, Professor and Chair, Ph.D, Wisconsin
Andrea Estepa, Instructor, Ph.D., Rutgers
Janice Fine, Associate Professor, Ph.D, MIT
Charles Heckscher, Professor, Ph.D, Harvard
Carla Katz, Instructor, J.D., Seton Hall
Francis Ryan, Instructor, Ph.D, Pennsylvania
Sue Schurman, Professor II, Ph.D, Michigan
Marilyn Schneiderman, Instructor, MSW, Wisconsin
Paula Voos, Professor, Ph.D, Harvard