Visiting Fellows

Sean O'Brady

Sean O'Brady

Country of origin: Canada Visiting period: March 2018-March 2020 Faculty sponsor: Virginia L. Doellgast , Ph.D. Email: so387@cornell.edu

Background and Previous Experience

Prior to becoming a Postdoctoral Researcher at Cornell’s ILR School, Sean O’Brady finished his PhD thesis at Université de Montréal’s School of Industrial Relations. His dissertation, entitled “Negotiating Insecurity? A Comparative Study of Collective Bargaining in Retail Food in Canada, Germany, Sweden and the United States”, examined how employers and unions negotiate wages, scheduling arrangements, and employee benefits in food retail across four countries (Canada, Germany, Sweden, and the United States). While his doctoral research centered on economic insecurity, his broader research focus is on how labor relations, human resource management practices, and institutions affect various aspects of job quality in low-wage, low-skilled service sectors. In addition to his doctoral work, Sean holds a Master’s in Public Administration (Carleton University) and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (Concordia University). 

Sean’s research has led to many awards, including an Honorable Mention for the Thomas A. Kochan and Stephen R. Sleigh Best Dissertation Award at LERA, the Early Career Workshop Award at SASE, the UCIRHRP Best Student Paper Award at LERA, the Allen Ponak Best Student Paper Award at CIRA, and the Dean’s Honour List designation for his doctoral work at Université de Montréal. His most recent article, “Partnering against Insecurity? A Comparison of Markets, Institutions and Worker Risk in Canadian and Swedish Retail”, has been published in the British Journal of Industrial Relations. In addition to research, Sean has experience in teaching collective bargaining at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at Université de Montréal.

Current Research at ILR


During his postdoc, Sean is conducting research on how collective bargaining and HR practices affect job quality in low-skilled service work. In collaboration with Virginia Doellgast, his supervisor, one project entails a mixed-methods analysis of how management practices and collective agreements affect worker stress in US call centres. He is also involved in further comparative research on job quality in food retail. Funded by the Québec Social Sciences and Humanities fund (FRQ-SC), this research delves deeper into various themes examined in his PhD research, seeking to unpack how managers and unions are experimenting with different strategies to improve jobs while maintaining competitiveness from an international perspective.

Sean O'Brady