Students are advised to check university and departmental calendars for up-to-date course listings and descriptions. Please contact the Work and Labour Studies Program Administrator to discuss current course offerings and program requirements, and to ensure that prerequisites have been met.
Pathways in Work and Labour Studies
Pathways provide opportunities for specialized learning through focused course selections, often tied to experiential learning and cooperative education. Program pathways are contextualized learning experiences that incorporate real-world examples, cross-curricular integration and professional experience that provide students with the opportunity to become experts in a particular research field. Pathways assist students in their transition to graduate studies, the workplace and other professional goals. Students can mix and match course selections from any of the four program-specific pathways and select from a variety of types of courses to suit their own interests and learning objectives.
Labour Law, Power, and Policy
This is a required course for all students majoring or minoring in Work and Labour Studies. This course analyzes labour relations in Canada. It reviews the historical development of the labour movement and the formation of the industrial relations system. In the historical process of collective struggle, workers gained significant legislated labour rights (including the right to organize, negotiate a collective agreement and resolve workplace conflicts through dispute resolution mechanisms) that form Canada's contemporary industrial relations system. Workers also won major social rights in the form of universal public services like universal healthcare, unemployment insurance, public education, health and safety, employment standards, and human rights legislation. The course also explores the rise of neoliberal globalization from the 1970s onward and examines its impact on labour markets, workers’ legislated labour rights and worker protections, work time, health and safety, social programmes and other public services. The course concludes by analyzing labour movement responses to these transformations, including labour-management partnership, new organizing strategies, international solidarity, social unionism, and community-based organizing.
This course uses a political economy perspective to place occupational issues within a broader context and thus focuses on the interface between power, economy, culture and health in people’s working lives. The course explores the ways in which occupational health problems are created by scientific uncertainty and the social construction of risk. It examines how the work environment creates conditions that result in occupational disease and injury, analyses the effects of power relationships and technology on occupational health, and highlights le occupational health problems. This course goes beyond the concept of occupational health problems related to industrial work to explore problems related to women’s work and marginal work. It concludes by examining the effects of our current policies on injured workers.
This course equips students to engage with workplace, community and society-wide issues by developing strategic research, advocacy, communications and organizational skills. Participants work individually and in small groups to address typical issues confronting unions and other social movement organizations. The course provides opportunities for experiential education in researching strategic questions and designing campaigns for change.
This course explores the organization and experience of sexual labour. Sex work (such as exotic dance, escorting and street sex work), and sex tourism, transactional sex and other sexual-economic-affective arrangements are examined in the context of hetero-patriarchal, racial, and global relations of power. Attention is also given to struggles against social and economic injustice by women, migrant and sex workers.
Every human society has had to ensure that work gets done. The mobilization, discipline and reproduction of labour have been special concerns of many legal systems. This course begins with an overview of some historically significant legal regimes, including slavery, master and servant, and collective bargaining. We then examine the three pillars of contemporary Canadian labour law: the common law of employment; statutory regulation of the employment relationship; and the collective agreement. Course materials include primary documents, statutes, decisions of courts and tribunals and scholarly writing.
Special Topics courses alternate annually and may include but are not limited to:
Care Work in Canada: Perspectives and Issues: This course evaluates perspectives and issues related to care work in Canadian society. It provides a comprehensive understanding of paid and unpaid care work with a review of evolving values and forces at work in care contexts. The course is designed to critically appraise theoretical and policy debates about care work, as well as evidence about the division of labour in care within a feminist political economy framework. Though the focus will be on Canada, attention to how Canada is located within an international context will be provided throughout, along with some review of other national contexts.
Legal Regulation of Migrant Workers: Constructed Insecurity and Worker Resistance: This course examines the legal regulation of transnational migrant workers in Canada, with a particular emphasis on the experience of low-wage migrant workers from the global south. Drawing on international human rights law, federal immigration law, provincial immigration policies, and provincial law on social and economic rights, the course aims to provide a solid understanding of how this complex web of laws intersects to construct insecurity for migrant workers throughout their labour migration cycle. The course aims to provide a firm foundation from which to analyze current issues and policy debates regarding migrant workers in Canada. It explores the history of temporary labour migration in Canada and the growth of Canada’s current temporary foreign worker programs. It examines the experience of migrant workers in a transnational context including issues such as globalization, labour export policies, transnational worker recruitment, social impacts arising from the global separation of productive and reproductive spheres, the gendered and racialized impacts on temporary labour migration programs, and migrant workers’ experience of erosion of their social and economic rights in Canada. The course also examines issues relating to worker resistance through domestic and transnational worker organizing.
This course analyses the role of organized labour in the political economy of Canada. We trace the interaction of labour, business and government and focus on the contemporary struggle of labour, as it confronts the corporate state.
- Canadian Democracy in a North American Context
- Political Organizing & Communication
- Political Economy & Political Power
Cross-listed with AP/POLS 3140 3.0.
This course examines key Marxist and feminist debates and collaborations in light of the theoretical and political challenges posed by poststructuralism. Questions of language, culture and identity are explored, with emphasis on the interconnections of gender, race, class and sexuality in late capitalism.
This course seeks to understand the current parameters of working class politics through a theoretical and historical examination of the relationship between parties, trade unions and the democratic capitalist state.
An analysis of the ability of capitalist economic and political institutions to restructure and project themselves anew, including more flexible forms of production and new political alliances.
The historical forces which have shaped the politics of work and industry are examined, as well as the contemporary restructuring of work, the new industrial policy debate, and the altering spatial patterns of production and trade.
- Canadian Democracy in a North American Context
- Political Organizing & Communication
In this course, work will be viewed as a social problem. Topics include the meaning of work, the theory of alienation, evolving patterns of industrialization and labour relations, occupational cultures, the deskilling of work and solutions to alienated labour. The theories of post-industrial society will be examined.
Creative Labour, Culture and the Digital Workplace
In recent decades, work-life balance (WLB) has emerged as a new area of Canadian labour policy. WLB policies aim to reconcile a misfit between the organization of paid and unpaid work in an effort to improve the collective health and well-being of working Canadians. However, no consensus exists among policymakers as to whether and how the institutions of the state and market should be involved in the delivery of programs and services to promote WLB. Policy choices and legislative changes hold different implications for individuals and their families.
This course gives students the opportunity to understand the historical context in which WLB emerged in Canada and critically evaluate various approaches to managing WLB. These approaches include voluntary employer-sponsored initiatives (worker wellness programs; 'cafeteria-style' benefits packages; on-site services); modifications to the spatial and temporal nature of paid work (e.g. homework, telework, part-time work, compressed workweeks); legislative changes (employment standards regulating working time and overtime; parental leaves, long-term care leaves; childcare).
Students will consider the strengths and weaknesses of market-based and state-led approaches to WLB, particularly as they relate to the income security to workers, the promotion of decent working time, the transformation of traditional gender divisions of unpaid work and childrearing, and the promotion of gender equity in the workforce. In doing so, students will reflect upon broader questions about the changing relationship between states and markets in regulating the organization of paid and unpaid work and the role of the labour movement in advocating for policy changes.
Demand for care workers is on the rise – many of the fastest-growing jobs are care related. This course will help students understand the powers at play in this critical sector of work and the economy. Care work, both paid and unpaid, is deeply impacted by neoliberalism and in recent decades the sector has experienced shifting state involvement, privatization and growth of market pressures. Much like other areas of work, care is shaped by the rise of precarious and low-wage work, with uneven consequences across social locations such as gender, race, immigration status, class, (dis)ability and sexual orientation.
The labour movement has struggled to develop strategies to represent both the interests of care workers and the collective interests of access to care. Underlying the evolution of care are assumptions and values, including those about gender, skill, and responsibility. This course will review paid and formal care, along with unpaid and informal care provided in households, communities and institutional settings. We will evaluate theoretical and policy debates about care work, as well as evidence about the division of labour in care. Students will gain understanding of the effects of neoliberalism on central aspects of work and daily life. Though the focus will be on Canada, attention to how Canada is located within an international context will be provided throughout, along with selected review of other national approaches to care
This course prepares students for graduate studies in labour relations, law, environmental studies and the social sciences. Students will be given the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the major forces transforming work and labour in the global era.
This course analyzes labour in the communication and cultural industries (including journalism, broadcasting, creative labour and cyber-work) by the examination of the historical constitution, present institutions, and current practices organizing labour in these industries.
This course explores major themes in the formation of Canadian society through a critical examination of issues and debates aired in recent historical scholarship. Three periods pre-industrial, industrial and post-Second World War provide a temporal framework for analyzing recurrent issues.
Climate Crisis, Migration and the Future of Work
In the past twenty years, Canadian patterns of work and employment have been transformed profoundly, putting an end to the employment security that characterised the post- World War II era. But in an era of rapid global warming and chaotic shifts arising from globalisation, the outlines of Canada’s next world of work remain troublingly unclear. Are we looking at a brave new world of widespread prosperity, good jobs and constant career mobility, or a polarised world, divided between a shrinking number of good jobs in which security is traded off against personal fulfilment, and a growing number of bad jobs—precarious, dead-end, exploited and vulnerable? Worse still, are we looking at ‘the end of employment’? Will we ‘buy’ our good jobs at the expense of workers in Latin America, Asia and Africa? What new forms of worker representation and action are emerging and need to emerge? What social forces struggle over the contours of Canada’s labour market today? Will massive investment by the governments of formerly poor countries, in the corporations of the Global North shift the balance of power away from the ‘First World’? Whatever happened to leisure? What is ahead for today’s students? Does education still matter? This course looks at the future of work in Canada from these perspectives. The course also surveys ‘the work of others’: the future of employment and work in other countries of the Global North and the Global South.
SOSC 1510 is a General Education course usually taken in the first year, with an additional time devoted to the development of analytical skills pertinent to the social sciences. For students majoring or minoring in Work and Labour Studies, this is a required course, but it will not satisfy their General Education requirement.
The course provides students who have an academic or experiential background in industrial relations with the opportunity to increase their knowledge of collective bargaining, labour-management relationships and internal union and management decision-making processes through a year-long simulation. As a member of the union or management team, each student is involved in researching, planning, negotiating and administering a collective agreement. During the first-term members of the course prepare for and negotiate a new collective agreement. During the second term, they administer their agreement through the grievance/arbitration process. This is a structured simulation whose chief purpose is to provide an interesting and engaging opportunity to develop research, analytic and communications skills and to learn more about the policy, practice and substance of labour relations in Canada today.
The grading scheme is designed to recognize a combination of individual and group work. Students must be prepared to devote significant time to group work outside of class. There are no examinations.
This course offers students in Work and Labour Studies and Business and Society (Labour Stream) the opportunity to work, before graduating, for and with a union or a community-based labour-friendly organization whose mandate is to advocate on behalf of workers and/or organized labour. The purpose of such an internship is three-fold. First, it acquaints students with the nature of employment by a union or worker organization. Second, it teaches students, through on-site field research, about the particular labour organization they are working with: its history and structures, how strategy and policy are formulated, how its internal bureaucracy works, etc. Third, the course brings students in internships together with the instructor in order to subject their new, first-hand knowledge of their placement organization to a structured intellectual analysis in a seminar situation. Students finishing the placement will have gained first-hand knowledge of how an institutional actor in the field of labour relations identifies its priorities, attempts to realize its goals, and deals with other institutional actors in the field.
In order to realize these objectives, the placement course operates on three levels. First, each student is expected to work one day a week, or its equivalent, at a labour organization of interest to the student, and which is acceptable to the employer, the placement supervisor and the instructor. Second, all placement students will be expected to spend six hours a month in seminars, in which they will discuss and exchange in a structured fashion about their work. Each student will be responsible for presenting a discussion on their placement experience in relation to specific work and labour studies topics. Finally, each placement student will submit a take-home exam at the end of the course. Students who wish to enrol in this course must prepare a résumé and attend an interview with the course director during the spring advising period (April-June).
Course Director: Carla Lipsig-Mummé
This course examines the dramatic changes in work and employment practices, new production processes and increased capital mobility against the background of the emerging global economy. Special emphasis is given to the future of women's employment, state policy and collective bargaining.
This course examines the geographies of productive and reproductive labour at multiple scales, including global, national, regional, urban, domestic and personal.
Climate warming may be the most important force reshaping work worldwide in the 21st century. The course explores debates on global warming, sociological dimensions and social responses, transnational disruptions and the potential of work and labour unions to respond.
Climate warming may be the most important force reshaping work worldwide in the 21st century. But can work and labour help slow global warming? Setting Canada within international context, the course explores the origins and debates concerning the gravity of climate warming, the sociological dimensions of both climate warming and responding to climate warming, the transnational social disruptions caused by climate change in Global North and Global South, and the unexpected potential of the world of work and labour unions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Inequality, Global Labour Movements and Workplace Democracy
This course examines diversity and marginalization in Canadian workplaces and labour markets and the strategies adopted by equity-seeking, community and labour organizations to achieve social and economic justice.
This course investigates the formation of the gender division of labour at work in the home and in the paid workplace. Women’s entry into the paid labour force as low-wage, flexible workers in manufacturing and service occupations, their role in the caring professions, and their changing status and participation in household work, is examined in historical perspective in the first term. The second term expands upon some of the theoretical insights from the history of women’s work illustrating continuities with the past in relation to the contemporary position of women in the global economy. Topics include the role of women in global manufacture (garment, electronics), the migration of women reproductive workers worldwide (domestics, sex workers), and the implications of sex discrimination in restructured industries and labour markets. The course ends with a discussion concerning how to promote gender equality at work through formal regulation and the global women’s movement response in organized resistance to female inequality.
This course explores working-class life in Canada. It offers a theoretical understanding of class as a form of social consciousness, then explores this concept within a historical chronology centered on class identity, interests, and struggle. An important feature of this course is examining the formation of the working class with an intersectional lens so that students understand how class identity and interests were interconnected with gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality. Other themes in the course include: how working-class families adapted to changing socio-economic conditions through their ‘family economy’; the importance of labour market formation; the introduction of managerial techniques in the workplace; the entanglement of state policy in class conflict; the centrality of culture in the social consciousness; and the different ways the working class have asserted their interests through resistance.
Whether or not labour markets function efficiently and advance the goals of social justice has important ramifications for economic growth and social stability. Over the past two decades, policymakers have redesigned labour-market policy in order to increase flexibility in the operation of labour markets. In this course, we will assess the dynamics and impact of this new paradigm of labour-market policy. The course begins with an examination of theoretical approaches to understanding labour markets and labour-market policy, before turning to historical and contemporary developments in labour-market policy in Canada. Finally, working in groups, students will prepare and engage in a series of class debates on policy issues including training, welfare-to-work policies, mandatory retirement, labour-market policy towards new immigrants, and school-to-work transitions for young people.
This is a course in critical social science methodology, designed to improve students' abilities to read and evaluate social research. The major research methods will be studied in the course using exemplary texts and hands-on assignments. Among the methods considered and compared are: quasi-experiments, surveys, ethnography, historical method, case studies, text analysis, and action research. The course is not primarily about how to conduct a research project (although the skills developed in the course are essential for researchers as well as for those who rely on social science knowledge in support of public policy and social action). Instead, the emphasis is on acquiring the ability to understand and evaluate research findings and reports. This ability is essential in any career or undertaking that relies on empirical evidence and analysis as the basis for rational decisions.
This course is jointly mounted by the Work and Labour Studies, Law and Society, and Health and Society programs in the Department of Social Science.
Women have a long tradition of organizing to expand their rights, resist oppression, challenge and defend traditional values and to change their societies. This course documents and analyzes the patterns of women's activism using historical, cross-cultural and contemporary sources.
Broadly comparative, this course uses Canada as a focal point and basis of global comparison. It evaluates both the historical and contemporary development of living wage movements and the economic, social and political features that have shaped its variations across the Global North and South. Today, billions of workers around the world have no regular income and many do not earn a wage sufficient to live a decent life. For much of the preceding decades, the wages of workers have generally been stagnant as economic gains flowed to the highest earners. At the same time, the proportion of unionized workers has shrunk as wage discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity and employment status exacerbates labour market inequalities. In short, the market has been unable to ensure an equitable distribution of wages, nor guarantee the well-being of ordinary people. This context has given rise to new demands for ‘living wages’. A living wage goes beyond minimum wages taking into consideration such factors as the actual costs of food, housing, clothing, rent, transportation and child care in a specific location. Course content is drawn from a diversity of theoretical and methodological approaches and includes documentaries and interviews with low-waged workers, online readings and exercises to gain both knowledge and practical skills to understand the ever-evolving landscapes of wage setting
Topics studied will include the causes, characteristics, processes and consequences of social movements; the appeal, ideology, organizational structure, strategies and tactics of social movements; and the process of becoming committed to a social movement.
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- Equity, Inclusion and Diversity at Work
- Legal Regulation of Migrant Workers: Constructed Insecurity and Worker Resistance
- Work-Life Balance in a Global Economy
- Sport, Work and Resistance
- Labour in Music and Film
- Indigeneity and Labour
- Robots, Automation and Technology at Work