Labor Studies

Labor studies is an interdisciplinary program that examines the nature and meaning of human work. Topics include workers’ rights, social and economic justice, the history and role of labor unions, fair trade, human resource management, and workplace ethics.

Why Choose Labor Studies?

Due to the rapid pace of change in technology and the global economy, understanding the labor movement, labor law, and current workforce problems has never been more vital.

Work is a fundamental part of the human experience. How people understand work has many cultural, political, economic, and historical dimensions. As a labor studies major, you will examine work as a human right and learn about the implications for workers, business, and law.

The Classes

The labor studies major includes courses in humanities, social sciences, business and education. In addition to learning about the history and social policy of labor, you can take courses in topics including:

  • Industrial psychology
  • Negotiation and conflict management
  • Social inequalities
  • Catholic social teaching
  • Labor economics
  • Philosophers on race, class and gender

The Faculty

Faculty members have strong relationships with many international corporations and organizations, including the United Nations, the International Labor Organization, and the International Young Catholic Workers. Small class sizes and a robust calendar of campus events allow you to develop a close connection with your professors.

The City

Labor history is especially rich in New York City — in fact, the earliest documented labor movement in the U.S. happened in NYC in 1768. Visit the historic site of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, discovery the history of the labor movement at the Tamiment Library and witness deliberations on labor issues at the United Nations — these sites are all just a subway ride away.

New York City also is home to many national and international organizations involved in contemporary questions of work in a global economy. Our students get real-life experience as interns for governmental agencies, labor unions, law firms, and international non-governmental organizations.

  • Meet a Labor Studies Major: Emily Center
    Labor Studies Student

    “I committed to Manhattan College mid-way through my junior year of high school to come here and play soccer. I really liked the location and the small environment. I'm from a small town outside of Albany, so I didn't want to jump right into the city and not have a community like the one Manhattan offers. Also, the connections that we have in this city are unbelievably good compared to other schools.

    “I came in as a communication major, and I decided that I wanted to double major. I did some research online and found labor studies. I want to work in human rights, so I found the subject material really interesting. I get to study laborers, their lives and experiences in the workforce, and how I can interact with people in the workforce. I'm also learning about the history of the workforce, and some issues in the workforce that are trying to be remedied right now.

    “I really enjoy that the major is flexible and that I can choose my own classes across departments. I enjoy government, English, sociology — I was interested in a lot of things and I wasn't sure what direction I wanted to go in — and labor studies has allowed me to go in all of those directions at once. I’m also in a lot of classes with people who are different majors than myself, so it's interesting to approach whatever we’re learning with a different mindset than everyone else.

    “I took a sociology class called Workers in the Workplace, and we went into Lower Manhattan to visit the Tenement Museum, the 9/11 Memorial, Union Square, which is actually a really big part of the labor movement, and Washington Square Park, which has a monument related to labor. It was really cool to be surrounded by some of the most important places in the labor movement in New York City — even in the whole country.

    “I interned for Capitol Group, which is a lobbying firm in Albany. It’s a really small firm with just two lobbyists, so it was nice because I got to work with the people that had all the connections. I met several assemblymen and senators, and I got to talk to clients myself. I helped with their JCoPE filing (Joint Commission on Public Ethics), I was the editor for all of their memos of opposition and support for different bills that were going through legislation. I wrote legislative reports for clients at a time when the governor had just given his State of the State address, so I got to talk about a lot of things that are related to labor studies, such as the planned minimum wage increases. My boss was a Manhattan College graduate, so he let me do a lot of things that I was interested in.

    “I was also paired with a mentor through Manhattan College’s Mentor Program — Jennifer Frankola ’02 — she's an education lawyer. She invited me to the city to watch her in the Court of Appeals. She was working on a liability case, and there were lots of people there, but she was nice enough to stay after and sort of explain what was happening in detail. And she introduced me to the judge of that case, and a few of the lawyers in her firm. She sort of gave me the idea that I should pursue something before I go to law school. She pursued education, and then went into education law. So maybe I could work for a union, and then decide I want to go to law school.

    “It's really those connections you need to do anything after you graduate. In labor studies, you're going to get the one-on-one attention, you can cater your classes to be what you want, and your professors are really eager to connect you with people that they know.”

What Will You Learn?

You will develop skills that are well suited for 21st century careers in a global economy. In addition to excellent critical thinking and communication skills, you will:

  • Learn the history and present role of unions and the labor movement
  • Discover the role of fair trade goods in a global economy
  • Discuss contemporary forms of slavery and economic inequalities
  • Develop an understanding of ethical and religious perspectives of work
  • Develop an understanding of workplace health and safety

Labor Studies is also offered as a minor.

See degree requirements

What Will You Do?

A major or minor in labor studies prepares students for civic and professional success.