Labor Studies

College of Behavioral and Social Sciences
Dean: Joel Kassiola

Labor Studies Program
HSS 236
Director: Brenda Cochrane

Undergraduate Adviser: Brenda Cochrane


Professors—Cherny, LeVeen, Mar, Pinderhughes

Associate Professors—Cochrane, Hossfeld


B.A. in Labor Studies
Minor in Labor Studies

Program Scope

The labor studies program attracts students interested in how our lives are shaped by work and its results. Starting from the practical problems of work, workers and their organizations, labor students investigate the underlying economic, political, and cultural forces. Drawing on the full range of social science and other disciplines, students develop practical and analytical skills needed in working with labor, government, and other organizations in the labor field.

Labor studies courses combine broad perspectives with specific skills. Introductory courses provide a general knowledge about work, workers, and their organizations. Electives enable students to examine areas in greater depth. Individual and group research projects encourage students to develop skills through investigation of specific problems such as: obstacles to organizing among immigrant workers; labor management cooperation's impact on grievance-handling and collective bargaining; use of computer information systems in local union operations; corporate buyouts' effects on workers' job security; pressure of international competition on working and living standards domestically and abroad; and child care provision through union activity. In these and other problems, students are encouraged to do first-hand investigation by working directly with those involved.

Students are employed generally, and labor studies courses are offered usually in the evening. Advising is available both days and evenings, and students are informed periodically by letter of new developments. Overall, the labor studies program aims to meet the needs of nontraditional working-adult students as well as of traditional day students.

Labor studies instructors combine the analytical and the practical in their courses. Both regular SFSU faculty and practitioners with labor, government, and other organizations bring together experience for broad perspectives and expertise for specific skills. With the Labor Studies Advisory Board of unionists and others active in the Bay Area labor scene, instructors develop and teach courses reflecting immediate concerns and future goals. Instructors and the Advisory Board help students bridge the gap between university and the labor scene.

Career Outlook

Labor studies graduates work in a variety of occupations. Some are employed by local and national labor unions as organizers, representatives, researchers, negotiators, trainers, and trust-fund administrators. Others work for government agencies responsible for worker rights and protection in the National Labor Relations Board, U.S. Department of Labor, California Department of Industrial Relations, and other government agencies. Still others are elected union officers, labor educators training unionists in union representation, or journalists covering labor relations for print or electronic media. Labor studies graduates also go on to advanced study in industrial and labor relations, public administration, law, and other disciplines.


The labor studies major is organized into four tiers. The first tier, which includes LABR 250 and 300, provides a basic introduction to the field, including the range of topics and ways of studying those topics through the use of social science concepts and methodologies. The second tier builds upon this foundation in four areas: labor economics, labor and government, organizational theory and practice, and labor's relation to the larger society. The third tier, which is elective in nature, provides a way for the labor studies major to focus upon those areas of knowledge and skill directly related to his/her vocational objectives. The final tier, usually taken in the final semester before graduation, provides a career development seminar, vocationally-related internship, or field experience.

On-line course descriptions are available.

Tier I: Foundations Units
LABR 250 Introduction to the Study of Labor 3
LABR 300 Researching Labor Issues 3
Total for Tier 16
Tier II: Four Required Courses
LABR 400 Union Structure and Administration 3
LABR 500 Labor and Government 3
ECON 510 Labor Economics 1 3
One course selected from the following. Other courses dealing with the relationship between labor and the larger society may be acceptable upon approval of the program director. 3
  HIST 474 History of Labor in the U.S.  
  S S 343 Women and Work
Total for Tier II 12
Tier III: Vocationally Related Electives
The student and his/her faculty adviser should work out a plan through which these electives will further the career objectives of the student. Students transferring from community colleges with work in labor studies may be granted credit for up to 12 units of lower division course work in labor studies toward the Tier III requirements. 15
Tier IV: Final Experience
An internship with an appropriate labor-related organization or government agency, under the auspices of an appropriate course or 3-4
A field study course, applying the knowledge and skills acquired in the labor studies program to the analysis of some appropriate labor-related program, organization, government agency, event, etc., under the auspices of an appropriate course; e.g., LABR 699, Special Study
Total for major 36-37


Programs Units
LABR 250 Introduction to the Study of Labor 3
LABR 300 Researching Labor Issues 3
LABR 400 Union Organization and Administration 3
LABR 500 Labor and Government 4
ECON 510 Labor Economics 3
Electives on advisement 7
Total for minor 23


  1. The requirement for ECON 510 may be met by student completion of 6 units of lower division work in labor economics and collective bargaining.

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