Labor History (LS255)

Labor History can be understood from the perspectives of both trade union history and the social, cultural, and political life of workers. To gain insights into labor’s past, it is useful to explore not only union organizing, collective bargaining, and labor legislation, but also what workers think, how they work and live, and the impact of workers on the larger society. This course will use both of these approaches in order to examine the major themes in American labor history from the 19th century to the present day.

Key Topics

  • Understanding Labor History
  • Race, Gender and Ethnicity: The Constantly Changing Work Force of America
  • Class conflict during the industrial revolution (the progressive era as it stands)
  • Rise of industrial unions
  • Rise of public sector unions
  • The corporate counterattack
  • Unions in the era of globalization

Approach and Features
This course will cover the history of American Workers and their unions from the early days European colonization to the present.  The course places special emphasis on changes in the American working class as a result of migration from overseas and within the United States and the role of women and minorities in the work force. 

Alex Blair Earned a PhD in U.S. history from the University at Buffalo in 1993.  He has taught U.S. history at Buffalo State College since 2007, specializing in labor history, immigration, and America in the Twentieth Century.  He also works as an historian consultant with a number of unions including the Teamsters, the CWA, the UAW, and New York State united Teachers.  Prior to joining the faculty at Buffalo State, Blair worked at Cornell University ILR in the Buffalo Extension Division from 1987 to 2002.  He also worked as co-host and executive producer of the weekly syndicated radio show "Prospering in America."  Most recently he has published a book on the Teamsters and the civil rights movement and an article on Labor and the political left in Buffalo, New York.



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