Scheinman Institute Faculty Spotlight: Duanyi Yang
Name: Duanyi Yang
Current position at Scheinman/ILR: Assistant Professor at the Labor Relations, Law, and History Department
Education: PhD in Management, MIT
Areas of expertise: Labor relations, work and labor in China, worker voice, workplace dispute and its resolution, gender and work, and work-family policies
Types of courses taught: I am currently teaching the undergraduate-level labor relations course at the ILR School (ILRLR 2050). I taught Organization Behavior and the Future of Work when I was at MIT.
Career highlights: I am an enthusiastic participant in the community of scholars studying labor relations, conflict resolution, work and family issues, and international labor. I have been an active member of the Labor and Employment Relations Association, presenting research, organizing panels, planning a Ph.D. Consortium at its annual conference, and serving at its program committee from 2018-2020. I have recent work published in the ILR Review, Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Behavior, and Regulation & Governance. I also do peer-review for top management and labor relations journals, such as Organization Science, Work and Occupations, and the ILR Review.
Please discuss a recent research or writing project: When I was a graduate student at MIT, my colleagues and I surveyed a nationally representative sample of American workers. The central message from our survey data is that the majority of today’s American workforce expect to have at least some influence on the full spectrum of issues affecting their work and careers (from scheduling, to pay, to being treated fairly on the job). We find that despite the decline in union representation and political and policy hurdles for organizing today, American workers’ interest in joining a union has increased in recent decades. Almost 50% of the non-union workers say that they would vote for a union, compared to approximately one-third in the two prior national surveys in the 1970s and 1990s. Looking beyond unions, we found workers currently use a wide range of voice channels at work, with some preferring internal options provided by employers and others seeking external representation. These data suggest the value of developing multi-option systems of voice and representation, in contrast to both existing labor law and prevailing practice.
A memorable experience working with students: I am committed to remaining open to feedback and dialogue regarding current debates in labor relations. I ask my students to bring one piece of labor relations news to each class, and I am always fascinated by students’ creativity and ability to apply what we learnt in the course into understanding the labor problems in the real world. I choose teaching as a profession not only because I care about the knowledge students can learn from me, but also the knowledge I can learn from my students. I believe innovative thinking and creativity originate from classrooms where ideas collide. The discussions are not unidirectional from me to students, but bidirectional and student centered.
Advice you would give to students in the conflict resolution field: A significant part of our learning should happen outside the classroom. It is important for our students to do field work and stay updated about both the challenges that workers face today and the business practices that could potentially facilitate worker voice and reduce workplace conflicts. For example, when I studied the grievance behaviors of Chinese migrant workers, I recruited my interviewees at construction sites, dining halls, and labor NGOs. Workers told me stories about their everyday lives. Their struggles, their hopes, their happiness, and their tears were not written in any conflict resolution textbook, but their rich narratives help me develop new theories to contribute to the conflict resolution field.