Maxwell School

Labor Studies Working Group

Labor Studies Working Group logo(1)

PARCC's Labor Studies Working Group is an interdisciplinary group of faculty members and graduate students from Syracuse University. The primary goal of the group is to institutionalize Labor Studies at SU and to elevate labor―broadly defined―as a topic of intellectual inquiry and social and political importance on campus. The group meets on a regular basis to discuss research concerning labor and employment and to spark conversation on these issues on campus and in the community.

The Labor Studies Working Group organizes workshops on faculty and graduate student research and symposia which are designed to bring together leading labor scholars with activists and/or practitioners to explore pertinent issues facing workers and workers’ movements. If you are interested in helping to plan, organize, or attend labor studies group events, contact the coordinators: Professor Gretchen Purser,, 315.443.5848 and Professor Matt Huber,, 315.443.3845.                          

Working Group Members
Gretchen Purser (Sociology)
John Burdick (Anthropology)
Linda Carty (African American Studies)
Cecilia Green (Sociology)
Matt Huber (Geography)
Vincent Lloyd (Religion)
Don Mitchell (Geography)
Tod Rutherford (Geography)
Eileen Schell (Writing and Rhetoric)


Feb 18 photo

"Mobilizing the Academic Precariat: The Contingent Faculty Labor Movement at SU and Beyond"

Wednesday February 18th, 5:00pm-6:30pm in 204 Maxwell Hall, Syracuse University

Description: The low pay and poor working conditions for adjunct faculty and other part time instructors has become a topic of concern across colleges and universities throughout the country. This panel discussion served to both explain the problem and explore solutions at Syracuse University and beyond. The panelists aim was to provide resources to make the issue more visible on campus and also provide opportunities for organizing with broader national movements focused on academic labor rights.

Gretchen Purser (Assistant Professor, Sociology), Labor Studies Working Group
Matt Huber (Assistant Professor of Geography) 
Laurel Morton, Adjuncts United, Syracuse University
Eileen Schell, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric
Heather Clemens Sponenburg, Labor Relations Specialist, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT)

Organizing for Dignity photo

Guest Speaker  |    Tuesday, November 18, 2014  

Organizing for Dignity: The Campesino Movement in Colombia

Marylén Serna Salinas is a farmer, and the leader of Cajibio's Farmers' Movement (CFM) based on the province of Cauca, in southwestern Colombia.  Marylén has served for many years in leadership roles with organizations such as the Cauca Network for Life and Human Rights, the Women's Departmental Organization, the Cauca's Regional Committee of Victims, and the Regional Space for Peace. At the national level, Marylén is spokesperson for the Peoples' Congress, a  coalition of social movements from across the nation, and a ley leader in Colombia's National Agrarian Summit.

Labor Symposium  | February 28, 2014Labor Symposium 2014 From Exclusion to Power

"From Exclusion to Power": Labor Law and the Right to Organize Among Domestic and Farm Workers      

Millions are excluded by law or practice from the basic protections and bargaining rights afforded to most workers in the United States. Guest workers, prison workers, and restaurant workers who survive on tips are all examples of workers who do not have the bare minimum of rights required for creating workplaces of respect and dignity. However, millions of these “excluded workers” are now organizing across the United States to achieve not only specific goals like coverage under minimum wage laws, but also a more fundamental human right to organize and collectively bargain with their employers. This symposium grappled with the challenges and recent organizing successes for these workers. Bringing together academic experts and activists, the program will include two separate panels that hope to both raise awareness about the plight of these workers and build common organizing strategies across different sectors.

Panel 1: Domestic Workers, 1:00-2:30pm. This panel focused on domestic workers (e.g., home health care workers, housecleaners, child caregivers) who won Domestic Workers’ Bill Of Rights” bills in states across the country (including NY) as well as new federal regulations including the nearly 2 million domestic workers in basic minimum wage and overtime pay laws.

  • Premilla Nadasen, Visiting Associate Professor, Barnard College
  • Barbara Young, National Organizer, National Domestic Worker Alliance
  • Kate Griffith, Associate Professor of Labor and Employment Law, Cornell University

Watch video of panel discussion on domestic workers:

Panel 2: Migrant Farmworkers, 3:00-4:30pm. This panel examined migrant farmworkers with a specific focus on the booming dairy sector in Upstate New York, which includes an estimated 2,600 undocumented mostly Latino workforce. Overcoming appallingly long hours, unsafe conditions and fears of deportation, these worker have begun organizing around workplace health and safety, end to wage theft, language access, and passage of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. 

  • Kathy Sexsmith, Graduate Student, Development Sociology, Cornell University
  • Rebecca Fuentes, Lead Organizer, Workers Center, Syracuse, NY
  • Kate Griffith, Associate Professor of Labor and Employment Law, Cornell University 

Watch video of panel discussion on migrant farmworkers:

Organized by the Labor Studies Working Group. Sponsored by the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC). 


Labor Union Highlights Salary Issues with Campus Equity Week . Daily Orange article explains how PARCC’s Labor Studies Working Group has helped to garner attention for inequity issues on campus.

FALL 2013 PRESENTATION: "Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST)" With Judite Stronzake, MST Leader and Coordinator of “Formação” for Via Campesino

Brazil's Workers’ Movement, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) in Portuguese, is a mass social movement formed by rural workers and by all those struggling for land reform and against injustice and social inequality in rural areas. The MST was born through a process of occupying latifundios (large landed estates) and became a national movement in 1984. Over nearly three decades, the movement has led more than 2,500 land occupations with about 370,000 families – families that today have settled on 7.5 million hectares of land that they won as a result of the occupations. Through their organizing, these families continue to push for schools, credit for agricultural production and cooperatives, and access to health care. In this presentation, Judite Stronzake provides an overview of MST and lead a discussion about its history and ongoing work. Co-sponsored by PARCC's Labor Studies Working Group, the Sociology Dept., the Anthropology Dept. and the Geography Department.

SYMPOSIUM: "The Crisis of Academic Labor: Grad Students, Adjuncts and the Making of the Low-Wage University" | March 29, 2013

Over the last four decades, American universities have increasingly shifted their academic labor force toward a pool of part-time and underpaid adjuncts, graduate students, and a whole variety of hybrid non-tenure track faculty. Today, according to the American Association of University Professors, nearly 70% of faculty members are non-tenure track, characterized by low wages, difficult working conditions and negligible job security. Meanwhile, universities continue to raise student tuition while spending exorbitant amounts on administration salaries and building construction. How has this happened? How do the eroding conditions for academic labor mirror wider trends in American capitalism toward low-wage job growth and increasing inequality? How have these trends affected Syracuse University? How are technological trends and new teaching platforms transforming the conditions of academic labor? What are the prospects for graduate students working toward a career in academia? What is the future of tenure? Finally, and most important, how have these trends been resisted through adjunct and grad student unionization and other forms of labor struggle? How does Syracuse University's status as a private institution structure the legal environment of such struggles? This workshop and event on academic labor explores such questions and provide a venue at Syracuse for discussion and debate by all those concerned with the state of academic labor. This event was co-organized by PARCC's Labor Studies Group and the Future Professoriate Program, and co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Maxwell School, GSO, and the Departments of Geography and Sociology.

PARCC Labor Studies Symposium 2013

Keynote Talk: "Resistance Is Not Futile: The Future of Higher Education," Cary Nelson, Past President of the AAUP and Jubilee Professor of Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Panel: The State of Academic Labor Today  

  • Max Haiven, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and Edu-Factory Collective
  • Maria Maisto, President, New Faculty Majority
  • Terry Weiner, Provost, Russell Sage Colleges
  • Rana Jaleel, PhD candidate and grad student organizer, NYU

Panel: Academic Labor Justice at Syracuse University  

  • Eileen Schell, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric, SU
  • Don Mitchell, Faculty representative to SU Board of Trustees
  • Laurel Morton, President, Adjuncts United, SU
  • Emily Mitchell-Eaton, PhD student in Geography, SU

Labor Studies Event Sept. 2011  Labor Studies Event Oct. 2011  Labor Studies Event Marc 2012  Labor Studies Event Apr 2012

SYMPOSIUM: Taken for a Ride: Guestworkers in the U.S. | Sept. 1, 2011

  • David Griffith, PhD, Professor of Anthropology at East Carolina University
  • Rachel Micah-Jones, JD, Founder & Executive Director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante
  • Martin Davila Venegas, H-2B guestworker from Mexico
  • Rebecca Fuentes, Director of the Workers Center of Central New York

SYMPOSIUM: Labor and Community Organizing | Oct. 28, 2011

  • Janice Fine, PhD, Professor in the School of Labor & Management Relations at Rutgers University
  • Ian MacDonald, PhD, Postdoc Fellow in the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, Cornell University
  • Jeffrey Bellamy, Executive Director of Syracuse Alliance for a New Economy
  • Mark Spadafore, Political Organizer for SEIU Local 1199

SYMPOSIUM: Solidarity Across Borders: New Developments in Labor Transnationalism | Mar. 20, 2012

  • Jamie McCallum, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Middlebury College
  • Robin Alexander, JD, Director of International Affairs of the United Electrical Workers Union
  • Benedicto Martinez Orozco, Co-President of the Frente Autentico del Trabajo (FAT)

SYMPOSIUM: Public Employees Under Siege? The Case of Public School Teachers | Apr. 18, 2012

  • Rebecca Givan, PhD, Asst. Professor at the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, Cornell University
  • Pauline Kinsella, Executive Director of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT)
  • Douglas Gerhardt, JD, President of statewide school labor relations association (MASLA)


Follow Maxwell at:

twitter facebook youtube linkedin blog rss
Syracuse University Give Now

Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC) | Maxwell School | Syracuse University | 400 Eggers Hall | Syracuse, NY 13244-1020 | 315.443.2367 | Fax: 315.443.3818