Kate BronfenbrennerDirector of Labor Education Research
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 labor law and 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 PhD. from Cornell in 1993, is the co-author and editor of several books on union and employer 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 also published numerous articles, book chapters, and working papers 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.
Because of her expertise in contemporary labor issues and her research on union and employer behavior in certification election campaigns, Bronfenbrenner is brought in to testify as an expert witness at Labor Department and Congressional hearings and is frequently quoted in the major news media.
Bronfenbrenner is the recipient of many awards most notably, the 2020 George D. Levy Faculty Award for outstanding community-engaged learning, and, one of Cornell's highest honors, the Carpenter Memorial Advising Award, in 2012. She also was a four-time Merrill Outstanding Educator and a two-time time winner of the Robert Stern Mentoring Award (2007 and 2015). She was the William E. Weiss Lecturer at Skidmore in 2013, won the Labor Research Association's Ernest DeMaio Labor Award in 2009, won 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, and was selected to give the 24th Memorial Sefton Lecture at the University of Toronto in 2006.
A central part of Kate’s work conducting high-quality policy research that is accessible to policymakers, practitioners, the media, and the general public. She also has an interest in 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, business, or NGOs or to pursue graduate degrees in the social sciences using the qualitative and quantitative research skills they learned working on these studies.
The goal of my teaching has always been to develop ILR students as independent thinkers and writers and to teach them about contemporary workplace and labor issues in a global context. Because I teach 4000-6000 level courses and writing seminars I have small enough classes that there is room for class discussion. Thus, an essential part of my teaching focus is to make sure that every student participates in class discussions and in group presentations. Small classes such as mine are unique opportunities for students to hone their skills as critical thinkers and writers and have opportunities for engaged learning with workers, unions, worker centers, government agencies, and community groups. Therefore, I give them challenging readings with different points of view, bring in guest speakers including workers, scholars, and practitioners, and apply for funding to allow them to engage directly with the community they are studying. I provide them both short writing assignments where they learn to critique and analyze other writers and longer research papers where they learn to use both primary and secondary sources as the basis of their research and learn to frame an argument, and format, source, and write a longer research paper. I strongly encourage the students with the best papers to turn their papers into published articles or to go on to do honors theses or graduate school and spend extra time with those who have more difficulty in writing so that the next paper they face will not be such a challenge. I also encourage students to speak in class through small group discussions, presentations on the readings, and presentations of their final work. I am pleased to report that one consistent outcome from my classes is that most of my students see themselves as better writers and feel more confident about pursuing other upper-level classes or graduate school than they did before.
My research focus is fourfold: global corporate restructuring and capital mobility and its impact on workers, wages, and communities; employer and union strategies in organizing and bargaining in a neoliberal economy; implications of changing workplace demographics for unions and employer; and in what ways, if any, labor has been able to meet the rising challenge of economic inequality in the US. I have conducted my own research and peer-reviewed other scholars' research that used survey research, multivariate data analysis, ethnography, primary document research, qualitative analysis, and strategic corporate research.
I have been actively involved in service for the University since I came here in 1993. I have been serving on University-wide committees for more than two decades, 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, particularly the work I do to teach and mentor first-generation students, transfers, and students of color to ensure they have a strong foundation of research and writing skills and work experience by the time they graduate.
As one of a small group of faculty members who has an appointment both in the Labor Relations, Law, and History Department and in the Resident Extension Department, outreach continues to be an essential part of the work of the Office of Labor Education Research (OLER), which I direct. One of the primary programs of OLER is to conduct engaged research with a team of undergraduate research assistants on labor policy issues for labor, NGO, and government decision-makers. The students working for me not only receive one to four years of education and experience in social science research methods, but also get an opportunity to engage with labor, community, academic, and political organizations they may be working with in the future. Our outreach program has also run an internationally renowned Strategic Corporate Research Summer School each June for more than twenty years. Forty-eight students attend each year from unions, community organizations, and social justice organizations from the US, Canada, and many other countries.
- Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2014. Another Bruise, but the Fight to Unionize Continues, New York Times .
- 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, 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, United States: ILR Press, 2007. Kate Bronfenbrenner.
- Kate Bronfenbrenner, Robert Hickey. 2003. Blueprint for Change: A National Assessment of Winning Union Organizing Strategies. Ithaca NY, United States: Cornell Office of Labor Education Research, 2003.
- Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 1999. Ravenswood: The Steelworkers' Victory and the Revival of American Labor. Ithaca NY, United States: ILR Press, 1999.
- Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1998. Organizing to Win: New Research on Union Strategies. Ithaca NY, United States: 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, United States: ILR Press, 1995.
- Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich. 1995. Union Organizing in the Public Sector: An Analysis of State and Local Elections. Ithaca NY, United States: ILR Press, 1995.
- Kate Bronfenbrenner, Tom Juravich, Nancy DellaMattera. 1993. Professional Workers and Unions. Washington, DC, United States: AFL-CIO Department of Professional Employees, 1993.
- Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2011. A Fundamental Issue of Justice. in Don't Mourn-Organize: Lessons from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. NY, NY, United States: 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, United States: 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, United States: 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, United States: 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, United States: 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, United States: 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, United States: 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, United States: 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, England: 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, United States: 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, United States: 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, United States: 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, United States: 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, United States: 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.
- Kate Bronfenbrenner. 2000. Foreword. in The Killing of Karen Silkwood. Ithaca NY, United States: ILR Press, 2000.
- 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)
- Kate Bronfenbrenner, Xavier Eddy, Kyle Friend, Hannah Simmerman. . Outsourcing in the Trump Era: Losing jobs and communities in media silence. Champaign/IL/USA: LERA, LERA . (Accepted)
- Kate Bronfenbrenner. 1996. Lasting Victories: Successful Union Strategies for Winning First Contracts. in Proceedings of the Forty-ninth Annual Meetings. Madison WI, United States: Industrial Relations Research Association, 1996.
- Organizing, equity, access, and power. Presented to Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program: A Clean Slate for the Future of Labor Law. Cambridge, MA USA. 2018.
- “Sysco shareholder liability and persistent, pervasive, hallmark violations: Grand Rapids, Michigan 2017”. Presented to Teamsters International. Houston, TX. 2017.
- Labor, Trade and Inequality. Presented to Ohio State Center for Ethics and Human Values. Columbus, OH. 2017.
- 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.
- “Testimony by Kate Bronfenbrenner regarding RIN 3142-AA08.” . Presented to NLRB. Washington D.C.. 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.
- Determinants of organizing success. Presented to United Steelworkers Canadian National Office. Toronto. 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
- George D. Levy Faculty Award, Office of Engaged Initiatives. 2019
- Outstanding Educator for influencing Merrill Presidential Scholar, Cornell. 2017
- Robert Stern Award for Teaching and Mentoring, Teaching Advising Committee. 2016
- 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