Labor Studies Working Group
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, email@example.com, 315.443.5848 and Professor Matt Huber, firstname.lastname@example.org, 315.443.3845.
Working Group Members
John Burdick (Anthropology)
Linda Carty (African American Studies)
Dana Cloud (Communication and Rhetorical Studies)
Cecilia Green (Sociology)
Matt Huber (Geography)
Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern (Food Studies)
Don Mitchell (Geography)
Laurel Morton (School of Design)
Steve Parks (Writing Program)
Jessica Posner (School of Art and Department of Transmedia)
Gretchen Purser (Sociology)
Tod Rutherford (Geography)
Eileen Schell (Writing and Rhetoric)
Rebecca Schewe (Sociology)
Glenn Wright (The Graduate School)
SPRING 2017 Labor Studies Working Group Events
U.S. Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM in 220 Eggers Hall, Strasser Legacy Room.
Guest Speaker: Phyllis Bennis, Director, New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC.
Bennis' journalism and activism employ a rigorous left perspective and focus on ending the U.S. wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and beyond. She is the author of numerous books, including Understanding ISIS & the New Global War on Terror: A Primer, Before & After: US Foreign Policy and the War on Terror, and Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN Defy U.S. Power. Click here to watch the video of this event.
The Labor Movement in the Age of Trump: Challenges and Prospects
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM in 220 Eggers Hall, Strasser Legacy Room.
Guest Speaker: Jeffrey Grabelsky, Associate Director, The Worker Institute at the Industrial and Labor Relations School at Cornell University. Click here to watch the video of this event.
Labor Studies Working Group 10th Decade Project Graduate Research Symposium Friday, April 14, 2017 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM in 220 Eggers Hall, the Strasser Legacy Room
1:05-1:55pm PANEL 1
“‘Happy soldier, happy family’: Exploring Militarized Relations of Production Among Military Spouses” by William Oliver, PhD candidate in Sociology
“Producing Americans: Industrial Education at The Ford Motors English School” by Vincent Portillo, PhD candidate in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric
Faculty Respondent: John Burdick, Professor and Chair of Anthropology
2-2:50p PANEL 2
“The Politics of Distress: Drought and Migration in Maharashtra” by Natasha Koshy, PhD candidate in Social Science
“Milking Cows, Draining Workers: Labor, Resistance and Cultural Moral Economy in New York’s Dairy Industry” by Fabiola Ortiz Valdez, PhD candidate in Anthropology
Faculty Respondent: Cecilia Green, Associate Professor of Sociology
2:55-3:45 PANEL 3
“From citizen to surplus, Madonna to Marx: Towards a retheorization of homelessness” by Brian Hennigan, PhD candidate in Geography
“Dollar Store Economy: Employee Criminalization and the Liability Model of Work” by Tracy Vargas, PhD candidate in Sociology
Faculty Respondent: Matt Huber, Associate Professor of Geography
4-5 KEYNOTE TALK
"Scratching Out a Living: Activist Research for Immigrant Worker Justice” by Angela Stuesse, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UNC-Chapel Hill
"Academic Freedom vs the Charles Koch Foundation: Lessons from Other Campuses"
March 24, 2017 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM in 018 Eggers Hall, Syracuse University
Guest Speaker: Ralph Wilson, Senior Researcher and co-Founder of UnKoch My Campus.
The Charles Koch Foundation has become an active donor to higher education over the last several years – including Syracuse University last fall. This talk is meant to educate the Syracuse University community about the larger context of such gifts. Ralph Wilson is a leading researcher on the Koch Foundation’s impacts on higher education at several campuses across the United States. Click here to watch the video of this event.
"Labor in a Changing Climate: Climate Change, Labor and Global Citizenship"
March 2, 2017 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. in the Strasser Legacy Room, 220 Eggers Hall
Description: Green Jobs? Pipeline struggles? Infrastructure? Recent events have revealed potential overlaps and tensions between climate and labor struggles. The ongoing battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrates the split within the labor movement on environmental questions; especially related to climate change. This event brings together experts and activists who seek to bridge these tensions between climate and labor activism. What would it mean to create a unified climate-labor movement? How can such a movement respond to the new leadership in the White House? What is the role of policy in creating solutions to climate change that also appeal to working class and other marginalized constituents? How can such a movement create forms of “global citizenship” to address the uneven historical responsibilities for and contemporary environmental impacts of climate change. This event will address these questions and many more.
Click here to watch the video of this event.
Christian Parenti, Global Liberal Studies, New York University
Kate Aronoff, Writing Fellow, In These Times
Howie Hawkins, 2014 Green Party candidate for New York Governor, Member, Teamsters Local 317
The Tenth Decade WORK, LABOR, AND CITIZENSHIP Project promotes inquiry and discussion about work, economic inequality, movements for workers’ rights, and citizenship. For more information visit: Maxwell.syr.edu/Tenth Decade Project
FALL 2016 Labor Studies Working Group Events
"Workers' Rights are Human Rights? Diversifying Labor Strategies in a Changing World"
October 27, 2016 from 2:00-4:00pm in the Strasser Legacy Room, 220 Eggers Hall Description: Labor scholars are divided on the issue of whether a human rights approach to workers’ struggles is in the best interests of labor or not. Those who disagree with this approach claim, among other things, that a human rights approach favors individual autonomy over collective solidarity and relies on elite-driven judicial strategies rather than “class-based, grassroots, fight-back strategies,” in the words of one skeptic. “Labor rights are human rights” proponents think that this approach holds out the best hope for workers in the era of neoliberal globalization and the growing irrelevance of citizenship-based rights in the context of both transnational capital and transnational labor. Away from the talking heads, workers’ campaigns on the ground, particularly among marginalized workers in the Global South and right-to-work U.S. states, as well as transnational labor migrants – all of whom lack basic labor rights and have limited access to collective bargaining opportunities – are choosing to embrace human rights-based approaches that combine social-movement unionism with instrumental appeals to transnational labor solidarity and universal human rights. In this forum, we ask the speakers to address three questions (and/or any others they may deem particularly relevant): In what ways might human rights approaches both subvert traditional labor solidarities AND create new ones? In what ways does market-driven globalization both subvert domestic labor rights and create opportunities for new forms of labor struggle and solidarity? (How) do race, gender and other identities change debates around the relationship between labor and human rights?
Click here to watch the video of this event.
Susan Kang, Department of Political Science at CUNY and Author of Human Rights and Labor Solidarity: Trade Unions in the Global Economy
Joseph Cohen , Executive Director , ACLU of West Virginia
Larsene Taylor , Retired, UE Local 150, North Carolina Public Service Workers Union
Karl Flecker ,Former National Director for Human Rights/Anti-Racism, Canadian Labour Congress
The Tenth Decade WORK, LABOR, AND CITIZENSHIP Project promotes inquiry and discussion about work, economic inequality, movements for workers’ rights, and citizenship. For more information visit:
Maxwell.syr.edu/Tenth Decade Project
Announcing the recipients of the Maxwell Tenth Decade Project on Work, Labor, and Citizenship Research Grants
The Work, Labor, and Citizenship Initiative nurtures interdisciplinary study of the many fundamental trends now at play in the broad field of labor studies. We are pleased to announce the recipients of the Maxwell Tenth Decade Project on Work, Labor, and Citizenship research grants:
Brian Hennigan, PhD candidate in Geography: “Consent, Casualization, and Casualties in the Cell Tower Industry”
Natasha Koshy, PhD candidate in Social Science: “Placing the Pahad: Legitimate Labour in Uttarakhand, India”
William Oliver, PhD candidate in Sociology: “Militarizing Social Reproduction: Re-conceptualizing Work, Military Families and Spouses, and the Military Spouse Role”
Fabiola Ortiz Valdez, PhD candidate in Anthropology: “Milking Cows, Draining Workers: Labor, Resistance and Cultural Moral Economy in New York’s Dairy Industry”
Tracy Vargas, PhD candidate in Sociology: “Dangerous Dollars: An Analysis of Worker Health, Safety and Vulnerability in US Dollar Stores”
Steve Parks, Professor in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric: “Working Class Citizenship in Transition: From Welfare State Conceptions of Citizenship to the Neo-Liberal State Citizens”
Vincent Portillo, PhD candidate in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric: "Producing American Workers: Literacy & Citizenship Training at the Ford Motors English School"
SPRING 2016 Labor Studies Working Group Events-
Friday, April 15, 2016 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. in 220 Eggers Hall, the Strasser Legacy Room.
Description: The app-based “gig economy” has emerged as a hot topic not only in the current US presidential election, but across the globe. Companies like Uber, Lyft, and Mechanical Turk are rewriting the rules of the labor market and reconstituting the nature of the employment relationship, raising the question: Who is an employee? Proponents of the “sharing” economy argue that it empowers the ordinary citizen, institutionalizes a new model of asset-sharing, and creates much-needed jobs. Critics argue that little in the “sharing economy” is being “shared” and that these companies are circumventing minimal labor standards. This event will explore the implications of the "gig" or “sharing” economy for economic citizenship.
Click here to watch the video from the event.
Lawrence Mishel, President of the Economic Policy Institute
Doug Henwood, Host of "Behind the News" and Contributing Editor of The Nation
Dawn Gearhart, Organizer with Teamsters Local Union No 117 and App-Based Drivers' Association.
PAST LABOR STUDIES WORKING GROUP EVENTS
"The National Labor Relations Act at 80. Who is an employee?"
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. in 341 Eggers Hall, the Moynihan Conference Room
Presentation by: Barney Horowitz, Resident Officer, Region 3 NLRB Albany and John Grunert, Field Attorney, Region 3 NLRB Albany.
Description: What is the status of graduate teaching assistants at private universities wishing to unionize? What is the significance of the Northwestern case for “student-athletes”? Where do college professors stand today in terms of the Act’s reach? What rights do you have under the NLRB even if you aren’t in a union? Is an Uber driver an independent contractor or an employee?
Film Screening and Discussion- "The Hand That Feeds."
Tuesday, October 22, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. in 060 Eggers Hall, the Global Collaboratory.
Join us for a screening of the award-winning documentary film The Hand That Feeds followed by a discussion with the director, Rachel Lears.
About the Film: Shy sandwich-maker Mahoma Lopez unites his undocumented immigrant coworkers to fight abusive conditions at a popular New York restaurant chain. The epic power struggle that ensues turns a single city block into a battlefield in America’s new wage wars.
This event is co-sponsored by the
Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC) and the
Department of Anthropology,
Department of Sociology,
and the Department of Geography at the Maxwell School and the
Food Studies Program at the Falk College of Syracuse University.
Thursday, April 9, 2015- Film Screening- ""Food Chain$- The Revolution in America's Fields."
A new documentary exposing the reality of farm labor in America. Sponsored by the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, Labor Studies Working Group, and the Central New York Worker's Center.
April 10 and 11, 2015- Religion and Labor: Moral Vision from/for the Grassroots- A Conference at Syracuse University and Le Moyne College
Labor leaders and scholars from around the world are gathering for a two-day symposium in Syracuse, New York, to explore how the moral resources within religious traditions can invigorate struggles for labor justice. The symposium will bring together ethicists, theorists, theologians, historians, and others
to foster a dialogue intended both to deepen scholarly conversations around these issues and to promote greater intellectual depth for faith-based labor organizing. This two-day event was held at Syracuse University, Hall of Languages Room 500 on Friday, April 10th with panel discussions on: The Religious Ethics of Work; Religious Practices and Worker Power; Organizing, Praying, Litigation; and Grassroots Religion and Labor Activism. On Saturday, April 11th the conference continued at the LeMoyne College, Curtin Special Events Room, Campus Center with panel discussions on: Theories and Theologies of Labor; and Histories of Religion and Labor.
"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.
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.
Click here to watch the video of this event.
Labor Symposium | February 28, 2014
"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
Click here to 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
Click here to 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).
IN THE NEWS
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.
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
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)