Cornell University

Graduate Degree Programs

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MILR Concentration: Collective Representation

Wei Sophie Lei MILR 10 The Collective Representation concentration focuses on industrial relations, including the past, present and future of the labor movement. In addition to the core courses, students choosing this concentration can take classes on the history of unions, the modern workforce, international and comparative political economy, theories of the labor movement and practical skills to apply to jobs in unions, labor relations and related areas.  This program is ideal for students just finishing undergraduate studies who are interested in social justice, or professionals in the labor movement who are looking for a change of pace.

Eleanor Emerson Fellowship

The ILR School at Cornell University is pleased to announce a new fellowship opportunity for students applying for a Masters of Industrial and Labor Relations (MILR) at the ILR School. The Eleanor Emerson Fellowship is intended to provide financial support for one full year, including tuition, stipend and health benefits, for one incoming MILR student in the Collective Representation (CR) or International & Comparative Labor (ICL) concentration.

The recipient of the award will have the opportunity to work closely with resident and extension faculty on research and other projects at the Worker Institute at Cornell.  Potential areas of research will be based on the Institute's six initiative groups—International Collective Action, Equity at Work, Labor, Environment and Sustainable Development, Precarious Workers, Public Sector and Strategic Leadership.

All students applying for an MILR with a concentration in Collective Bargaining or International & Comparative Labor will be considered for the fellowship. The recipient must demonstrate a strong interest in labor, social movements and/or NGOs in his/her statement of purpose, previous employment and/or extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation.  The recipient will also demonstrate strong academic ability as evidenced in undergraduate and graduate, transcripts, strong GRE scores, and letters of recommendation. The recipient will be chosen by the director of Graduate Studies and the co-directors of the Worker Institute and will work on Worker Institute projects under the guidance of the co-directors.

Core Courses

All MILR candidates must complete the following six core courses

  • ILRCB 5000 Collective Bargaining
  • ILRCB 5010 Labor Relations Law and Legislation
  • ILRST 5110 Statistical Methods for Social Sciences
  • ILROB 5200 Organizational Behavior and Analysis
  • ILRLE 5400 Labor Economics
  • ILRHR 5600 Human Resource Management

Concentration Courses

Paul DSouza MILR 11In addition to the 6 core MILR courses, students must complete a minimum of 6 courses in Collective Representation, but there are no set requirements regarding the nature of the elective courses. Rather, students should design a course of study that suits their needs under the direction of their special committee chair. See below for some possible courses.



Students in the Collective Representation concentration enroll in a minimum of 4 additional free electives. Some examples of elective courses are listed below.

  • ILRCB 4070 Contemporary Trade Union Movement - An examination of contemporary trade union issues, including union power, political action, collective bargaining approaches, and organizing efforts. The course covers structural, functional, and strategic aspects of contemporary unions. Speakers from the union movement will address the class.

  • ILRCB 650 Service Work and Workers in Historical Perspective - Takes a historical perspective on the development of a service economy in the United States. Readings include general and theoretical works, but the main focus is recent historical scholarship on specific occupations and situations in the "nonproductive" workforce. Students explore primary sources for research on the subject and write research papers.

  • ILRCB 6870 Introduction to Labor Research - Designed to provide students interested in the labor field with skills necessary to understand and use social science research as it related to the labor movement. The course has four major goals: 1) to develop the skills to critically evaluate a wide variety of research relating to unions and the workplace; 2) to introduce a number of both quantitative and qualitative research techniques used by unions and those who study the labor movement; 3) to familiarize students with the broad range of library and computer resources that can be used for labor and corporate research; and 4) to provide students an opportunity to design and conduct a research project for a national or local union.

  • ILRIC 6320 Revitalizing the Labor Movement: A Comparative Perspective - Examines contemporary efforts in the United States and Europe to revitalize unions and reform industrial relations. The first half of the course examines contemporary reform efforts in the United States, the second half covers Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, the "Europeanization" of labor, and/or related topics and other countries depending on student interest.

  • ILRIC 706 Labor and Global Cities - A study of urban labor movements, looking a strategies such as coalition building, community unionism, immigrant organizing and labor's role in local politics. We look at a broad range of cities – past cities have included Seattle, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Hamburg, Mumbai, Sao Paulo and Shanghai.

ILR Faculty Members in Collective Representation

Additional Information About the Collective Representation Concentration

Students interested in the labor movement can take advantage of many opportunities in the ILR School. Annual events include The Labor Roundtable, which takes place every fall semester. At this event ILR hosts labor leaders and leaders of social justice movements from around the world. Students are introduced to people who share their passion for social justice and they are exposed to different career opportunities in this field.

In the spring semester, ILR holds its annual Union Days celebration. This is a full week of union related activities. These activities include various speakers, panel discussions regarding controversial labor issues and a keynote speaker. Past keynote speakers include John Sweeney and Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Bruce Raynor and John Wilhelm from UNITE HERE. Union Days wraps up with a Social Justice Career Fair, which brings representatives from labor unions and other advocacy organizations to campus each spring. These activities allow students to build networking connections and line up employment opportunities.

Student activists groups in the ILR School play a large role in planning these events. COLA, the Cornell Organization for Labor Action, is a student group that campaigns for social change both on and off campus. The group is responsible for the current debates around the university on adopting an ethical purchasing policy. SCALE, the Student Coalition Advocating Labor Education, works to enhance the ILR curriculum and include more courses related to the labor movement, and also brings in speakers and coordinates labor related events. In addition, there are many university wide student organizations that promote social justice, including United Students Against Sweatshops, the Farmworkers Advocacy Coalition, and Students Acting for Gender Equality.

View the Graduate Programs in ILR from the Labor Perspective. pdfIcon