Labor Studies

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What is Labor Studies?

In the U.S., one of the first questions we ask when meeting people is, “So, what do you do?” That’s because work—what we do for a living—plays a big role in how we think about ourselves and others. It tells us a story about race, class and gender that implicates our self-worth and that of others around us, and directly impacts our ability to provide for our families and communities.

In Labor Studies, we unpack these stories and learn what makes a job good or bad. We discuss historical and current efforts to improve working conditions here and abroad, especially for workers of color and immigrants. Our classes prepare students to work in the labor movement, in government, non-profit, and the corporate world as leaders and activists for change. Located in Southern California, we are in the vibrant matrix of the worker activity, and our classes reflect the interests of the region in immigration, race, gender, sexual orientation, media, and leadership.

Labor Studies at CSUDH was program was founded in 1977. We offer one of only two degree programs in Labor Studies at four-year universities in Southern California, and we offer a Bachelor’s, a minor, and a certificate.

Labor Studies is an interdepartmental program. This means that along with specialized courses in labor studies, students also take related classes in fields such as history, sociology and economics. Students thus acquire a solid liberal arts education, as well as extensive training in the more practical aspects of labor studies.

The Labor Studies Program offers a major, a minor, and a certificate program. Many of our classes--and all required for our degree--are held on nights, weekends, or online.

Designed with the assistance of state and local labor leaders, Labor Studies at CSUDH coordinates with programs at community colleges, such as Trade Tech, Harbor, ELAC, as well as with the UCLA Labor Studies program. We also work with the Dolores Huerta Institute's educational initiatives, and interact with the Harry Bridges Institute and other local labor centers.

To the CSUDH Campus and Community:

Black lives matter. Labor Studies at CSUDH stands in solidarity with the millions who express outrage at police killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade as well as the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and too many more.

These killings lay bare the long tradition of state-sanctioned violence against Black people with roots in the European invasion of the Americas and subsequent enslavement of Native American and African populations. Equating the terrorizing and murder of human beings with "looting" suggests a viewpoint that Black bodies are still property. We reject the false moral comparisons between harm against humans and harm against property.

The labor movement’s history is filled with movements for immigrants, women, and workers of color. It is also riddled with racism, sexism, and xenophobia. This moment asks us to do better. There is no place for labor agendas that promote and protect racism. We celebrate the increasing demand for the AFL-CIO to sever ties with police unions who make nearly impossible the removal and prosecution of dangerous, racist officers. We join with nearly 200 civil rights activists, academics, and lawmakers who believe police unions dishonor the labor movement and call for the dissociation of the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) and unions of prison guards and Customs and Border Protection officers.

We second Dr. La Tanya Skiffer’s call, in her open letter to the campus, for an end to campus partnership with police and the re-imagining of public safety on our campus. Ture and Hamilton wrote in Black Power, “Colonial subjects have their political decisions made for them by the colonial masters, and those decisions are handed down directly or through a process of ‘indirect rule.’ Politically, decisions which affect black lives have always been made by white people—the ‘white power structure.'" We support the opposite: local self-determination of the working class, which is disproportionately composed of people of color. Resources must be divested from policing and reinvested in our campus community. Students, staff, and faculty (including lecturers) should deliberate and decide on how we want to allocate our resources.

The timing of this uprising is not lost on us, as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates racial and economic inequality in this country. Black Americans die of COVID-19 three times more than white Americans. Unemployment disproportionately hurts Black workers. Only last week, unemployment numbers fell for the first time since March-- except for Black workers, for whom they rose.

We support all the protesters, especially our students. We don't just support your ideals, we support you and appreciate your commitment to creating much-needed change. History affirms that the benefits we all enjoy today have come through similar struggles in the past, including those we teach in Labor Studies: slave revolts like the 1831 rebellion lead by Nat Turner; general strikes by immigrant workers in 1834 (the Massachusetts “mill girls”), 1909 (New York City’s shirtwaist workers), and 1912 (the Bread and Roses strike), to name but a few; the Watts rebellion in 1965; Stonewall in 1969; the Chicano Moratorium of 1970; the Occupation of Wounded Knee of 1973; and the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles that decried racist police brutality and city inaction for Black lives. We have inherited a movement for freedom and dignity and see this uprising as its most recent manifestation.

We appreciate and acknowledge the demands put forward by the Africana Studies Department and the letter which can be signed here


James Best
Miguel Gutierrez
Tia Koonse
Justin McBride
Matthew McGarvey
Vivian Price
Leisette Rodriguez