Course Syllabi

PENN STATE UNIVERISTY, Labor and Employment Relations (LER) courses on Global Workers' Rights:

LER 497E, Labor Standards and Economic Development (Spring 2014)

Click here for the LER 497E syllabus.

This course introduces the linkages between labor standards and economic development by examining them in the light of contemporary trends in the world economy and economic systems and by focusing on a number of key issues and challenges facing countries of global South. The course explores debates in the literature among economists, sociologists, political scientists, and development planners. The first part of the course focuses on the theoretical connections between labor standards and economic development with a view to reconciling current debates. The second part is devoted to an understanding of the intersection between labor standards and economic development, such as the relationship between employment and growth, informality, wage determination, the importance of human capital, trade and migration, and labor market regulations.  The third part makes an analysis of the role that the protection and promotion of labor standards can achieve in reference to concrete issues such as non-discrimination, child labor, compulsory labor, freedom of association and collective bargaining, and acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health.

LER 475H, Labor in the Global Economy: U.S. and South African Perspectives

Click here for the LER 457H syllabus.

This seminar focuses on how the nature of work is changing in the "new economy", and the implications for economic opportunity and inequality in both the United States and South Africa. Sections of the course examine: theoretical approaches to understanding contemporary process of labor restructuring, including globalization, rise of an information economy, and growth in service sector employment; case studies of restructuring processes in different industrial sectors in both the U.S. and South Africa; and innovative labor organizing initiatives at a local, regional and global scale. This course aims to develop a framework for understanding the nature of contemporary processes of economic restructuring and its impact on the world of work. Drawing on research in both a South African and U.S. context, key case studies in the changing nature of work will be examined. This will provide a deeper understanding of how broad macro-level changes in the nature of contemporary capitalism are mediated by a variety of technological, political, and socio-economic factors in particular industries and geographic contexts. Finally, an in-depth look at workers' responses to these changes at different scales (local, regional, global) will help deepen our understanding of the contested nature of workplace restructuring while exploring promising strategies for improving working conditions. This is a reading-intensive course dealing with the theoretical literature on rapid economic restructuring and how this is shaping work and employment. It is run in collaboration with the Sociology of Work Program at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, with video-conference discussions linking the two courses.

LER 497G, Global Workers' Rights (Spring 2013)

Click here for the LER 497G syllabus

In today’s era of intense global competition and economic integration, many of the national protections and guarantees offered to workers have been lost, reduced, or are under intense pressure to be stripped back. Consequently, workers’ rights, once key parts of citizen rights, are less stable and more contested than in times past. This course examines the multiple debates around the topic of workers’ rights: taking legal, political, and social perspectives and linking them to contemporary debates and proposals to strengthen workers’ rights in the global economy. The course will examine the problems and benefits of: international labor standards, codes of conduct, corporate social responsibility at the workplace, international framework agreements, and how unions and worker-focused organizations are attempting to protect workers’ rights in the face of mass worker exploitation and informality.

LER 458Y, The History of Work in America

Click here for the LER 458Y syllabus

LER 458Y, “History of Work in America,” provides an overview of the key events that have shaped the process and experience of work in the United States since the 19th century. This course highlights the ways in which workers, employers, and other citizens and non-citizens have shaped work relationships in this country since the Civil War. The aim is to help students think about historical transformations in the concept of “work,” but also changing perceptions about workers'rights, labor unions, and employment. Major topics include the evolving demographics of the U.S. workforce; organization and aims of labor unions and other collective enterprises relating to work or employment; a view of working conditions and their determinants; differences between private and public employment and a look at unionism in each case; the role of the state in shaping markets and regulating employment; the influence of globalization on domestic labor markets and job opportunities, and above all–quite simply–discussion of how people have worked and the opportunities work  provides for viable livelihoods.