Kate Bronfenbrenner

people / faculty

Kate Bronfenbrenner

Director ILR Ed Res
Labor Relations, Law, and History


Kate Bronfenbrenner is the Director of Labor Education Research and a Senior Lecturer at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations where she does teaching and research on union and employer strategies in organizing and bargaining in the global economy. Kate has also done extensive research on the impact of trade policy on employment, wages, and unionization. Prior to joining the Cornell faculty in 1993, Bronfenbrenner was an Assistant Professor in Labor Studies at Penn State University and worked for many years as an organizer and union representative with the United Woodcutters Association in Mississippi and with SEIU in Boston, as well as a welfare rights organizer in Seattle, Washington.

Bronfenbrenner, who received her Ph.D. from Cornell in 1993, is the co-author and editor of several books on union strategies including Global Unions: Challenging Transnational Capital Through Cross Border Campaigns, Union Organizing in the Public Sector: An Analysis of State and Local Elections, Organizing to Win: New Research on Union Strategies, and Ravenswood: The Steelworkers' Victory and the Revival of American Labor. She has also published numerous articles, book chapters, and monographs on labor policy, employer and union behavior in public and private sector organizing and first contract campaigns, comprehensive campaigns, union leadership development, women and unions, and global trade and investment policy. Her most recent study on the timing of employer serious unfair labor practices "Election timing, employer freed speech, and unfair labor practice occurrence: whose rights are at risk?" played a central role in informing the NLRB's recent election streamlining rule changes.

Because of her expertise in contemporary labor issues and her research on union and employer behavior in certification election campaigns, Bronfenbrenner has been brought in to testify as an expert witness at Labor Department and Congressional hearings and is frequently quoted in the major news media.

Bronfenbrenner has been the recipient of many awards most notably one of Cornell's highest honors, the Carpenter Memorial Advising Award in 2012. A three time Merrill Outstanding Educator, she was the William E. Weiss Lecturer at Skidmore in 2013, won the Labor Research Association's Ernest DeMaio Labor Award in 2009, IRRA’s Outstanding Young Scholar Award, ILR’s 60th Anniversary Outstanding Contribution to Labor Education Award, the Labor Party’s first Karen Silkwood Award in 1998, the New York Labor History Association’s John Commerford Labor Education Award in 2000, the General Mills Foundation Award for Exemplary Undergraduate Teaching in 2003, the Robert N. Stern Mentoring Award in 2007, and was selected to give the 24th Memorial Sefton Lecture at the University of Toronto in 2006.

Finally, a central part of Kate’s work is teaching research to young people through employing undergraduate research assistants on her policy research projects. Each year students who have worked with Kate graduate from ILR and go on to research jobs with unions, government or NGOs or to pursue graduate degrees in the social sciences using the qualitative and quantitative research skills they learned working on these studies.

Teaching Statement

The goal of my teaching has always been to develop ILR students as independent thinkers and writers and to teach them about contemporary labor issues in a global context. Because my courses tend to be seminars rather than lectures I have small enough classes where I can make sure that every student participates in class discussion and group presentations. I also believe that small classes such as mine are unique opportunities for students to hone their skills as critical thinkers and writers. Therefore I give them challenging readings with different points of view, I bring in guest speakers including workers, scholars, and practitioners. And most important I provide them both short writing assignments and longer research papers where they learn to critique, cite, and analyze other writers, use primary as well as secondary sources, frame an argument, and put it all together in a correctly styled and formatted research paper.

Research Statement

My research focus is threefold: global corporate restructuring and capital mobility and its impact on workers, wages, and communities; employer and union strategies in organizing and bargaining in a neo-liberal economy; implications of changing workplace demographics for unions and employers. I have peer reviewed publications using survey research, multivariate data analysis, ethnography, primary document research, qualitative analysis, strategic corporate research.

Service Statement

I have been actively involved in service for the University since I came here in 1993. I have been serving on University wide committees more more than a decade as well as committees within my college. However, I believe the most important service I provide is the mentoring and advising I provide students both inside and outside ILR.

Outreach Statement

As one of a small group of faculty members who has an appointment both in the Labor Relations Department and in the Resident Extension Department, outreach continues to be an important part of the work of the Office of Labor Education Research which I direct. The primary purpose of the office is to present the findings from my research in a manner that is accessible to labor, NGO, and labor policy groups.


Journal Articles

  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Dorian T Warren. . Election timing, rule changes, and the politics of labor reform and the NLRB, Was accepted to present at ASA in 2014, but decided to revise based on rapidly changing current events including debate in Congress, and upcoming Presidential veto and overide. eto) once done will submit as journal article.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2014. Another Bruise, but the Fight to Unionize Continues, New York Times.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2013. Unions, put organizing first, The Nation. 273(7):11-12.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Dorian T Warren. 2007. Race, gender, and the rebirth of trade unionism, New Labor Forum. 16(3-4):142-148.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2005. Organizing Women: The Nature and Process of Union Organizing Efforts among US Women Workers since the mid-1990s, Work and Occupations. 32(4):441-463.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2005. What Is Labor’s True Purpose? The Implications of SEIU’s Unite to Win Proposals for Organizing, New Labor Forum. 14(2):19-26.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 2005. Introduction: Bringing the Study of Work Back to Labor Studies, Labor Studies Journal. 30(1).
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2004. Offshoring: The Evolving Profile of Corporate Global Restructuring, Multinational Monitor. 25(12).
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2003. Declining Unionization, Rising Inequality: an Interview with Kate Bronfenbrenner, Multinational Monitor. 24(5):21-24.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2001. Changing to Organize, The Nation. 273(7):16-29.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2001. What do Workers Want: Reflections on the Implications of the Freeman and Rogers Study, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law. 3(3).
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2000. Raw Power: Plant-Closing Threats and the Threat to Union Organizing, Multinational Monitor. 21(12):24-29.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 1999. Steelworkers’ Victory at Ravenswood: Picket Line Around the World, WorkingUSA. 53-65.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 1999. Locked Out but Holding Together in Ravenswood, WorkingUSA. 8-24.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1999. Organizing for Keeps: Building a Twenty-first Century Labor Movement. Introduction to the Special Conference Issue, Labor Studies Journal. 24(1):3-6.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1998. We’ll Close, Southern Exposure. XXVI(2, 3):50-54.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1998. Reversing the Tide of Organizing Decline: Lessons from the U.S. Experience, New Zealand Journal of Industrial Relations. 23(2).
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1997. Organizing in the NAFTA Environment, New Labor Forum. 1(1):50-60.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1997. We’ll Close! Plant Closings, Plant-closing Threats, Union Organizing and NAFTA, Multinational Monitor. 18(3).
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1997. The Role of Union Strategies in NLRB Certification Elections, Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 50(2):195-212.


  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2007. Global Unions: Challenging Transnational Capital Through Cross-Border Campaigns. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 2007. Kate Bronfenbrenner.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Robert Hickey. 2003. Blueprint for Change: A National Assessment of Winning Union Organizing Strategies. Ithaca NY: Cornell Office of Labor Education Research, 2003.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 1999. Ravenswood: The Steelworkers' Victory and the Revival of American Labor. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 1999.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1998. Organizing to Win: New Research on Union Strategies. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 1998. K Bronfenbrenner, S Friedman, R Hurd, R Oswald, R Seeber.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 1995. The Current Status of Organizing in the Public Sector. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 1995.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 1995. Union Organizing in the Public Sector: An Analysis of State and Local Elections. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 1995.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich, Nancy DellaMattera. 1993. Professional Workers and Unions. Washington, DC: AFL-CIO Department of Professional Employees, 1993.

Book Chapters

  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2011. A Fundamental Issue of Justice. in Don't Mourn-Organize: Lessons from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. NY, NY: New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, 2011. Joel Shufro. (34)
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Dorian T Warren. 2009. Re-establishing a Workers' Rights Agenda. in Mandate for Change: Policies and Leadership for 2009 and Beyond. Lanham, MD: Lexington Press, 2009. Chester Hartman. (127-137)
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Stephanie Luce. 2007. Capital Mobility and Job Loss in Massachusetts: A Look at Production Shifts and Outsourcing. in The Future of Work in Massachusetts. Amherst MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007. Tom Juravich.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Robert Hickey, Tom Juravich. 2006. Significant Victories. in Justice on the Job: Perspectives on the Erosion of Collective Bargaining in the United States. Kalamazoo MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2006. Richard N. Block, Sheldon Friedman, Michelle Kaminski, Andy Levin.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2006. Comprehensive Strategy: The Key to Successful Organizing. in The State of the Union Report. Ohio: Ohio Education Association, 2006.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Robert Hickey. 2004. Changing to Organize: A National Assessment of Union Organizing Strategies. in Rebuilding Labor: Organizing and Organizers in the New Union Movement. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 2004. Ruth Milkman, Kim Voss.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 2003. Out of the Ashes: The Steelworkers’ Global Campaign at Bridgestone/Firestone. in Multinational Companies and Global Human Resource Strategies. Westport CT: Quorum Books, 2003. William N Cooke.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Robert Hickey. 2003. The State of Organizing in California: Challenges and Possibilities. in The State of California Labor: 2003. Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 2003. Ruth Milkman.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2002. The American Labor Movement and The Resurgence in Union Organizing. in Trade Union Renewal and Organizing: A Comparative Study of Trade Union Movements in Five Countries. London: Cassell Academic/Mansell Imprint, 2002. Peter Fairbrother, Charlotte Yates.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2001. The Evolution of Strategic and Coordinated Bargaining Campaigns in the 1990s: The Steelworkers’ Experience. in Rekindling the Movement: Labor’s Quest for Relevance in the 21st Century. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 2001. Lowell Turner, Harry C Katz, Richard W Hurd.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1998. New York State AFL-CIO Organizing Education Program. in Working Together to Revitalize Labor in our Communities: Case Studies of Labor Education-Central Labor Body Collaboration. Orono ME: UCLEA/University of Maine, 1998. Jill Kriesky.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 1998. It Takes More than Housecalls: Organizing to Win with a Comprehensive Union-Building Strategy. in Organizing to Win. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 1998. K Bronfenbrenner, S Friedman, R Hurd, R Oswald, R Seeber.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 1998. Preparing for the Worst: Organizing and Staying Organized in a Changing Public Sector Climate. in Organizing to Win. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 1998. K Bronfenbrenner, S Friedman, R Hurd, R Oswald, R Seeber.
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1994. Employer Behavior in Certification Elections and First Contracts: Implications for Labor Law Reform. in Restoring the Promise of American Labor Law. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 1994. Sheldon Friedman, Richard Hurd, Rudy Oswald, Ronald Seeber. (75-89)
  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1994. Unions and the Contingent Workforce. in The Labor Law Rights of Contingent Workers: Organization and Representation Issues. Department of Labor Studies and Industrial Relations, Pennsylvania State University, 1994. Kate Bronfenbrenner, Virginia L. duRivage.

Book Sections

  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2000. Foreword. in The Killing of Karen Silkwood. Ithaca NY: ILR Press, 2000.

Book Reviews

  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1995. Review of When Strikes Make Sense--and Why: Lessons from the Third Republic Coal Miners by Samuel Cohn. in Work and Occupations. 1995. (234-235)

Conference Proceedings

  • Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1996. Lasting Victories: Successful Union Strategies for Winning First Contracts. in Proceedings of the Forty-ninth Annual Meetings. Madison WI: Industrial Relations Research Association, 1996.

Professional Activities

  • Building power: Issues, elections, and organizing. Presented to Harvard Law School: Labor and Worklife Program. Cambridge MA. 2014.
  • How Unions Bargain for Work and Family Issues among Newly Organized Low-Wage Workers in the US. Presented to Work and Family Research Network. New York, NY. 2014.
  • Election timing, employer free speech and unfair labor practice occurrence: whose rights are at risk? . Presented to NLRB. Washington, DC. 2014.
  • Organized Women and Women Organizing: The Present and Future of the US and Global Labor Movement. Cornell University ILR School. 2014.
  • Welcome and Introduction to Roundtable. Presented to Office of Labor Education Research, Deans Office, Career Services. Statler Ballroom. 2013.
  • Transnational Campaigns and the Global Labor Movement: East India Tea to Wal-Mart. Presented to Skidmore College. Skidmore College. 2013.
  • Determinants of Organizing Success. Presented to United Steelworkers. Vancouver. 2013.
  • Welcome and Introduction to Roundtable. Presented to Office of Labor Education Research, Deans Office, Career Services. Statler Ballroom. 2012.
  • Reclaiming Our Democracy. Presented to Cornell University. Ithaca, NY. 2012.
  • Election timing, rule changes, and the politics of labor reform and the NLRB. Presented to ASA. Denver, Colorado. 2012.
  • Goliaths with many Davids: The challenges of international collective action.. Presented to Promoting Equality and Diversity through Economic Crisis. London, U.K.. 2012.
  • Implications of "Citizens United' for Public Sector Workers and Unions. Presented to Pennsylvania State Education Association. Scranton, PA. 2011.
  • The Future of the Public Sector. Presented to Office of Labor Education Research and COLA. Cornell University. 2011.
  • Breaking Barriers, Crossing Borders & Building Coalitions in the Global Struggle for the Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively. Presented to Villanova University. Villanova Unviersity. 2010.
  • Implications of NMB Rule Change and Citizens United Supreme Court Decision for unions and organizing. Presented to Cornell Media Services. Metroplitan Offices 16 E34th St. NYC NU. 2010.
  • Testimony before National Express Group Monitoring Commission. Presented to Teamsters. Raybourn Office Building. 2009.
  • Testimony on Proposed Changes to the Railway Act Administrative Rules. Presented to National Mediation Board. National Labor Relations Board. 2009.
  • No Holds Barred: The intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing". Presented to ILR School. 219 Ives Hall. 2009.
  • The Impasse in Unions and Union Organizing. Presented to Cooper Union. New York, NY. 2008.

Honors and Awards

  • Outstanding Educator for influencing Merrill Presidential Scholar, Cornell University. 2013
  • 2013 William E. Weiss Lectureship, Skidmore College Economics Department. 2013
  • Kendall S. Carpenter Memorial Advising Award, Cornell University. 2012
  • Outstanding Educator for influencing Merrill Presidential Scholar, Cornell University. 2012
  • Ernest deMaio Labor Award, Labor Research Association. 2009