SOC 266 A: Introduction to Labor Studies

Winter 2024
MW 2:30pm - 3:50pm / MLR 301
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
HSTCMP 249 A , POL S 249 A
Andrew Hedden
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

POLS 249/SOC 266/HSTCMP 249:

Introduction to Labor Studies

University of Washington

Winter 2024


Instructor: Andrew Hedden,  (He/Him)

Class Meetings: Monday/Wednesday, 2:30-3:50 in Miller Hall, Room 301

Office Hours: Tuesday 1:30 – 2:30PM, or by appointment, in Smith Hall, Room M266, Harry Bridges Center Office (on the mezzanine between the second and third floors, down the hall from the Law, Societies and Justice Department main office)



Course Description

This course explores the history, ideas, and politics of working people, broadly conceived, through Labor Studies. Labor Studies is interdisciplinary and intersectional. Though focused primarily on U.S. history, we will discuss how and why work is performed, organized and divided in societies, across time and space, within different countries, and different industries, and along lines of race and gender and other forms of power. We will consider how labor occurs everywhere under many conditions - at home, in the workplace, waged and unwaged, organized and unorganized. And we will discuss the history and politics of labor movements, including but not limited to unions, and how such movements have fought against oppression and hierarchy based on race, gender, sexuality, citizenship status, nationality, ability and more, in their particularities and their many intersections.

Students will be graded on short writing assignments (including reading responses), participation in sections, a mid-term paper, a final exam, and a final paper. 

This course is a foundational requirement for the Labor Studies Minor, and contributes to the Political Economy program of the Political Science major.



We will be reading two books this quarter: America is in the Heart: A Personal History by Carlos Bulosan (University of Washington Press, 2014; originally published 1943) and Essential: How the Pandemic Transformed the Long Fight for Worker Justice by Jamie K. McCallum (Basic Books, 2022). In addition, we will read a number of various book chapters and essays, which will be provided electronically on Canvas.

This is a reading intensive course, and it is imperative that you come to lecture and discussion section having done all the readings. Readings will not simply summarize the content from lecture; the readings instead provide additional theories and evidence that you will use in your paper and exams. All non-text book readings will be available on Canvas, and all articles are available to UW students for free online (make sure to use the UW Library Proxy on your browser). In addition, you will often be able to find the readings by simply Googling the author and title.


Assignments and Grading

Students will be graded on the following:

  • Section Participation (10%)
  • Survey and Reading Responses (15%)
  • Midterm Paper (20%)
  • Research Paper (30%)
  • Final Exam (25%)


Survey and Reading Responses. The first week of class, you will complete a short online survey about your personal and family work history, and learning goals for the quarter. This information will help the instructors get to know the class better and relate course content to students’ experience. The collective results of the survey will be shared with the class during lecture, but personal information will not be recorded.

In addition, you will complete four regular Reading Responses (due on the Friday of Weeks 2, 3, 6, and 7). A Reading Response is two short paragraphs, typically between three and five sentences each. The first paragraph should summarize the argument of one or more readings from the previous or current week, and the second should provide some brief personal reflections on the material. You will submit your Reading Responses on Canvas. 


Midterm Paper. Instead of a midterm exam, you will complete a Midterm Paper based on a one-hour interview with a worker. Your paper should summarize your interview, and provide context about the worker and their job by incorporating three independent secondary sources. Sources can include both contemporary news articles and academic articles and books. The paper must have a minimum word count of 1,000 words. Further instructions will be provided, as well as suggested questions for the interview. You will submit your Midterm Paper on Canvas.


Research Paper. A Final Research Paper (with a strict limit of 10 double-spaced pages) is due on Wednesday, March 6 at midnight. Details of the Final Paper assignment, including paper topics and formatting instructions, will be sent out in Week 2. You will submit your Research Paper on Canvas. 


Final Exam. The in-person final exam will cover all material from the course, and will test for students' knowledge of key topics, themes, and concepts. A study guide will be provided beforehand, along with a list of potential exam questions.


Plagiarism and AI Tools

Academic dishonesty will result in a failing grade for the course. Academic dishonesty is defined as cheating, plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, falsifying academic records, and any other act designed to avoid participating honestly in the learning process. Academic dishonesty also includes, but is not limited to, providing false or misleading information to receive a postponement or extension on a test or assignment, or the submission of essentially the same written assignment for two different courses without prior permission of the instructors.

The unauthorized use of artificial intelligence (AI) is a form of academic misconduct at UW. Tools that use AI and large language models to generate text—such as ChatGPT, GPT4, Bing Chat, and “Write with AI” in Google Docs—are prohibited in this course. The use of such tools to complete your assignments constitutes academic misconduct according to UW policy and may result in serious disciplinary action.


Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.


The Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies

Please utilize the University of Washington’s Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies as a resource. The Bridges Center supports students interested in the labor movement through the Labor Studies Minor, labor-related courses, paid internships, scholarships, research, events, and more. 

Regular announcements about current Bridges Center opportunities will be made throughout the quarter. You can also learn more by visiting the Bridges Center website at, and by signing-up for the Center’s email list at


Week One - January 3, 2024

What is Labor Studies?






Week Two - January 8 and 10, 2024

Witches, Slavery, and the History of Capitalism




  • Reading Responses

Guest Speaker:

  • Sai Ahmed, Assistant Director, Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies


Week Three - January 15 and 17, 2024

January 15 - NO CLASS, MLK DAY


Industrial Revolution, Settler Colonialism, and the Gilded Age




  • Reading Responses


Week Four - January 22 and 24, 2024

Global Revolution, Immigration, and Racial Exclusion




Guest Speaker:

  • Maru Mora-Villalpando, La Resistencia NW


Week Five - January 29 and January 31, 2024

The New Deal and the Rise of the CIO




  • Midterm Paper Due January 31


Week Six - February 5 and February 7, 2024

The Cold War, the “Treaty of Detroit,” the Golden Age of Capitalism, and the Civil Rights Movement





  • Reading Responses

Guest Speaker: 


Week Seven - February 12 and February 14, 2024

The Next Shift: Anti-Discrimination Law, Organized Labor in Crisis, Rise of the Service Economy, and Global Restructuring





  • Reading Responses

Guest Speaker: 

  • Marina Smoske, disability rights and labor activist
  • Rachel Erstad, Research Director, Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies


Week Eight - February 19 and February 21, 2024



China and Global Supply Chains



Guest Speaker: 

  • Sofia Torres, UW United Students Against Sweatshops


Week Nine - February 26 and February 28, 2024

From the Great Recession to COVID-19



  • Jamie McCallum, Essential through Chapter 4 (79-166)

Guest Speakers: 

  • Eunice How, UNITE-HERE Local 8 and Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
  • Joshua Davis, Visitor Service Officers Union, Seattle Art Museum


Week Ten - March 4 and March 6, 2024

The Labor Movement Today



  • Jamie McCallum, finish Essential (167-252)


  • Final Research Paper Due: March 4

Guest Speakers: 

  • Paula Lukaszek, President, WFSE 1495
  • Representative of UAW 4121


Week Eleven - Final Exam, March 12 

Final Exam:

  • Tuesday, March 12, 2:30 – 4:20 PM, Miller Hall, Room 301


Catalog Description:
Conceptual and theoretical issues in the study of labor and work. Role of labor in national and international politics. Formation of labor movements. Historical and contemporary role of labor in the modern world. Offered: jointly with HSTCMP 249/POL S 249.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
February 24, 2024 - 11:02 pm