Comparative Labor Relations Models

Course Number: LABR 619


This course will introduce students to the labor relations systems in a number of countries and provide a framework for examining labor relations systems globally. Participants will discuss the varied socioeconomic and political environments in which labor relations systems have developed and explore how they are responding to the challenge of globalization and capitalism in the 21st century. Particular emphasis will be placed on union strategies for growth and revitalization. By studying the labor relations systems of various countries, it is possible to gain a broader perspective and thus better understand labor movements more generally and the forces that continue to shape labor’s choices and strategies.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will understand national labor relations systems and labor movements  in the context of  legal, political, technological and socio-economic conditions
  • Students will be able to identify and evaluate various analytic perspectives on labor relations. They will understand both the historical contexts in which these perspectives developed and the current context in which they operate
  • Students will gain useful perspectives on collective bargaining and the functions of labor organizations, and how these  functions have very different meanings in different systems
  • Students will acquire experience in interdisciplinary scholarship that incorporates literature from various social sciences, including economics, sociology, history, and, politics



Session 1: Introduction to International Comparative Labor Relations
Studying systems comparatively
The global political economy
Comparative approaches

Session 2: Understanding Labor Relations Systems
Industrial relations paradigms
National industrial relations systems
Transnational comparisons

Session 3: The U.S. Labor Relations System
Characteristics of U.S. Labor law
Employment relations
Decline and revitalization of union power

Session 4: Canada: Small Differences that Matter
The state of unions in Canada
Canadian industrial relations
Collective bargaining as Constitutional right

Session 5: Labor Relations in China
Labor Policy and labor legislation
Socialist Values in a Market Economy
Chinese labor and global neo-liberalism

Session 6: Enterprise Unionism in Japan
“The labor question” in Japanese politics
Excluded workers
Competition and its effects

Session 7: Labor Relations in Korea
Analyzing strikes
New orders in an old regime
Financial crisis and labor relations

Session 8: Germany, Works Councils and Co-determination
Union mergers
Shop-floor representation
Employment relations in Germany

Session 9: The Challenge of Union Revitalization in Britain
Rank-and-file activism
Modernization of unions
Initiatives in organizing

Session 10: Unions in a Changing Europe
Central and Eastern Europe

Session 11: Labor Relations in India
Industrial relations
New perspectives
Impact of labor legislation

Session 12: Vietnam
Transformation in industrial relations
From rights to interests
Labor relations and global financial crisis

Session 13: Global Unions: Beyond the Nation State
International framework agreements
Multinational corporations and labor relations
International collective bargaining

Session 14: International Organizations
International Labor Standards
ICFTU structure
The global value chain

Session 15: Some Implications for Organized Labor
International trends in organizing
Strike trends in the last 30 years
Prospects for global labor