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School of Labor and Employment Relations University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Online Course Descriptions

For current course listings, full-time University of Illinois students can check Banner. All other students, check Online & Continuing Education.

  • All courses are 3 credit hours from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • A 100-level class will typically enroll 30-35 students, and a 200-level or 300-level class will typically enroll less than 30 students
  • Multiple sections of most courses are offered. If one section is full, try another section.
  • When you enroll in a course, see Compass for the latest syllabus.
  • More information on the academic calendar is available here.

LER 100  INTRODUCTION TO LABOR STUDIES

Also offered as a 1st eight week and 2nd eight weeks course.
An introductory course that provides an overview of workers and unions in American society, and an introduction to theories of labor and employment relations.  Looks at economic, political, and workplace issues facing working people, why and how workers join unions, how unions are structured and function, and how unions and management bargain a contract. Provides a historical overview of the American working class and the labor movement, discusses the contemporary struggles workers and unions face in a rapidly changing global economy, and examines a case study of a labor-management conflict.

Course Syllabus
First Eight Week Course Syllabus
Second Eight Week Course Syllabus 

LER 110  LABOR AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

Also offered as a 1st eight week and 2nd eight weeks course.
An introductory course which explores workers’ rights movements such as the Wisconsin workers’ protests, living wage campaigns, workers centers, and the immigrant rights movement. The class also looks at the role of labor unions organizing low wage workers – like hotel workers, security officers, and janitors – allying with community organizations in dynamic labor struggles.

First Eight Week Course Syllabus
Second Eight Week Course Syllabus

LER 120  CONTEMPORARY LABOR PROBLEMS

Only offered as a 1st eight week and 2nd eight weeks course.
An introductory course focused on problems and challenges facing American workers.  Workers’ issues explored in class include the economic crisis and unemployment;  health care; globalization and plant closings; retirement; and employment laws.

Course Syllabus

LER 130 INTRODUCTION TO LABOR AND WORKING CLASS HISTORY

This class will examine the conditions of life and work of the various groups of working people: enslaved, indentured, small farmers, but especially wage workers and their families from the Civil War to the present. We will study the main collective actions workers have taken to protect and improve their lives and the organizations and social movements they created to do this.

Course Syllabus

LER 200 GLOBALIZATION AND WORKERS

Is globalization good for working people in the United States and around the world? Globalization is the driving force in the world economy but it is also provoking tremendous debate and popular resistance. Students will learn the basics about globalization and its institutions from the perspective of workers’ right in the U.S. and the Third World. Analyzes the debate over free trade and sweatshops, trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, and institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. Closely examines working conditions in several Third World countries, and explores the role of the global justice movement.

Course Syllabus

LER 290  EMPLOYMENT LAW

This course addresses and critiques the content, interpretation, and applications of the laws that govern employer-employee relations in the American workplace.  It will explore the historical sources, underlying ideology, and current content of anti-discrimination and civil rights laws, of laws that seek to guarantee a safe and healthy workplace for all Americans, of laws that guarantee minimum wages and overtime pay, of legal protections of privacy on the job, of unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation laws, and of laws that guarantee workers the right to collective action and collective bargaining. The course was designed and is taught by labor attorney Maggie Cohen.

Course Syllabus

LER 300 WORKERS, UNIONS AND POLITICS

Offered every spring semester. What is the meaning and impact of politics seen from the perspective of those at the bottom of the pyramid of political power rather than the usual focus on the actions and perceptions of political elites? In what ways do workers become involved in politics? Under what circumstances are they likely to be successful in bringing about change? The course explores political power, political participation, and political change from a broad historical and cross-cultural perspective, but always focusing on a view of politics from the bottom up. Analyzes the political economy of labor and the labor movement’s political influence in politics. Prerequisite: Students should have taken a 100-level GLS course, or a course that discusses political issues.

Course Syllabus

LER 320  GENDER, RACE, CLASS, AND WORK

The course provides a historical and contemporary overview of the impact and interplay of gender, race, class and other issues of identity in the workplace. The history of women, people of color, and working class individuals in the workplace will be addressed. Contemporary issues of discrimination in the workplace will be examined including: the pay gap, occupational segregation and workplace harassment. In addition, the course surveys the remedies for dealing with workplace discrimination, with particular attention to employment discrimination laws. The particular challenges faced by those doing low wage work will also be explored. Finally, the course covers the response of labor unions to the issues of women, people of color, immigrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

LER 330 COMPARATIVE LABOR RELATIONS AND UNION MOVEMENTS

This course is designed to be an overview of comparative labor movements and labor relation systems. In this course we will develop a framework for understanding union formation and the development of industrial relations system in a variety of countries around the world. An emphasis will be placed on each country’s interaction between unions and political organizations, national labor policies, the machinery for the resolution of workplace problems, the level of shop floor disturbances, bargaining coverage of employees, and the issues of workers’ control. The course will also address how globalization has transformed the capacity of any nation’s labor relations’ system to respond to economic challenge and workplace conflict. It also examines the possibility of developing transnational unions.

Course Syllabus

LER 410 LABOR AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

This course covers a variety of topics related to work and worker organizations in the European Union.  We will begin with an overview of the formation and the institutional structure of the EU.  Our readings focus especially on labor policies, trade policies such as BREXIT, impact of the 2008 financial crisis, the rising tide of nationalism, conflict and war, worker organizations, citizenship and immigration from an intersectional perspective.

In contrast to the United States, many European countries such as Germany and France do not consider themselves to be countries of immigrants, despite evidence to the contrary.  In addition, workers must negotiate the complex histories of each country as well as the East-West and North-South divisions within the EU.  In our discussions, we will examine some of the tensions that erupt when nations of different economic, political, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds transition to the “oneness” of the European Union.

Course Syllabus