Fall 2017 - LBST 310 J100

The Politics of Labour in Canada (3)

Class Number: 2473

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 5 – Dec 4, 2017: Sat, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 10, 2017
    Sun, 8:30–11:30 a.m.

  • Instructor:

    Sarah St. John
    Office: TBD
    Office Hours: Saturdays 12:30-13:30
  • Prerequisites:

    Strongly recommended: LBST 101 and 30 credit hours.



The politics of the working class and union movement in the context of neoliberal economic and public policy, recurring economic crises, the changing nature of work, and declining membership. Central to the course will be the question of electoral politics and organized labour's relationship to political parties.


Income inequality, the minimum wage far below the living wage, unaffordable housing and increasing poverty are critical problems that working people face.

And so far, the 21st century has been a time of crisis in BC's public sector labour relations. The BC government's neoliberal approach up to this point is partly responsible for manufacturing this conflict.

But what is this neoliberalism? Where has it come from ideologically and how does it work in practice? How has it affected BC's public services, particularly its healthcare and education systems and the public sector labour structure? And how can the labour movement be a part of a progressive social movement to push back against neoliberalism?

In Labour Studies 310, we will trace the roots of BC's neoliberalism by examining some simple economic history, and how globalization amplifies neoliberalism. Then, with an intersectionality lens, we will explore healthcare and education in BC in particular, examining how neoliberalism has aggravated class issues, especially for support workers in those sectors. Finally, we will focus on how the labour movement can evolve into a more constructive part of a progressive social movement that can address the damage of neoliberalism.


  1. The growing state of income inequality and worker precarity,
  2. BC government's neoliberalism, as well as its roots and effects on public services,
  3. Attacks on working people including health and education support workers, and how that has aggravated the effects of the economic crises of this short century so far,
  4. The condition of public sector labour relations in BC and precarious work,
  5. Using the intersectionality lens, exploring how different people are made more vulnerable in different ways,
  6. How unions can be an effective participant in progressive social change and electoral politics.


  • Term paper 35%
  • Participation/engagement 20%
  • Midterm exam 20%
  • Final exam 25%


All assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade to be assigned.  The Morgan Centre for Labour Studies follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic honesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01-S10.04).  It is the responsibility of the students to inform themselves of the content of these policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html.



Ross, S. and Savage, L. (2013). Public Sector Unions in the Age of Austerity. Black Point, NS: Fernwood.
ISBN: 978-1552665848

Additional required and recommended readings will be made available on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html