January 24 2008
ILR senior does honors thesis research in England
Note: ILR senior Michael Snyder was recently awarded an International Experience Grant by ILR International Programs to help support his senior honors thesis research in England. This is Michael's report of his Winter Session experience.
Despite both the threat of industrial action at the London airports as well as a plane crash at Heathrow (luckily no one was seriously hurt) that had the potential to complicate my travel plans, I was able to spend two weeks of my winter break in England, thanks to an International Experience Grant, without which I would have been financially unable to make the trip to what is rightfully known as one of the most expensive cities in the world. My two week stay in London revolved primarily around conducting research in support of my senior honors thesis on three recent international trade union organizing campaigns with a focus on discerning the rationale behind the varying levels of engagement with the Global Union Federations (GUFs) which in my campaigns of interest were the International Transport Workers’ Federation (conveniently based in London) and Union Network International.
Because unraveling the reasoning behind the choice to involve the GUFs to different degrees requires actually speaking with the campaign participants in the absence of significant experience in international trade union work which as an undergraduate I do not have, my fieldwork consisted of interviewing the various trade union and GUF officials, activists and union consultants who worked on the three different campaigns. Help provided by the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G), a significant partner in the three organizing drives, was essential to my research as they not only agreed to give me access to their employees but also provided me with space in their central office that served as a home base for my fieldwork.
In addition to conducting the interviews that have formed the core of my research project, I was also able to enjoy being in an extremely vibrant and multicultural city with seemingly endless opportunities for entertainment. From going out to the pub for a pint of traditional English bitter with officials at the T&G to attending a football (it’s not soccer in England) match between two of the top flight London clubs I tried to make the most of my free time in the city. And while English cuisine perhaps doesn’t have the best reputation abroad, it’s also claimed that London, because of its large immigrant population, does have the best to offer in terms of ethnic food making eating out in the city a particularly agreeable experience.
Due to the support of both the T&G and the ILR school through an International Experience Grant then, I was able to spend my winter break not only learning about new developments in the international labor movement and conducting the research that will serve as the central component of my thesis but also enjoying my time in a truly global city. Overall, the experience has been invaluable to my educational experience at ILR.