New major in labour studies starts in fall 2018

November 08, 2017

In today’s “gig” economy,” in which temporary and contract work are increasingly common, it’s important to understand the history and changing nature of work, and to develop skills for analyzing labour policy.

Beginning in fall 2018, SFU is offering students a new major in labour studies. It will highlight labour history, and political economy and policy, and give students new insights into the study of work, workers’ experiences, and labour movements.

It will also equip students to critically analyze labour policy—a crucial skill given the current labour context of unemployment, employment scarcity and job insecurity.

“The precariousness of work in the “gig” economy is now something that is affecting the middle class, or more educated workers, which was not always the case,” says associate professor Kendra Strauss, director of the Labour Studies Program. “That is certainly not to say that the rights of one type of worker matter more than another, but to note that the struggle for decent, permanent jobs is something that is impacting more people.”

She says creating labour policy can, and does, matter, and the new major will give students a foundation for understanding and critiquing this new work environment and its policies.

Students who are already pursing a certificate or minor program in labour studies are excited about the new major.

Undergraduates Dylan Webb and Erik Sagmoen say their labour studies have introduced them to new ways of seeing and thinking about work, from both a theoretical and a practical perspective.

The professors and instructors have “extensive knowledge and experience,” says Sagmoen. “They are scholars, lawyers and union researchers sharing valuable perspectives drawn from their careers.”

SFU’s Labour Studies Program has been made possible by the generous legacy of SFU alumnus and labour activist Margaret Morgan who, with husband "Lefty" Morgan, was a lifelong learner, educator and activist who wanted to improve the education of working-class students.

Current or prospective students who are interested in the major can contact the Labour Studies undergraduate advisor at saadvise@sfu.ca.