RUTH MILKMAN is a sociologist of labor and labor movements who has written on a variety of topics involving work and organized labor in the United States, past and present. Her most recent books are Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat (Polity, 2020) and On Gender, Labor and Inequality (Illinois, 2016). Her early research focused on the impact on U.S. women workers of economic crisis and war in the 1930s and 1940s. She went on to study the restructuring of the U.S. automobile industry and its impact on workers and their union in the 1980s and 1990s; in that period she also analyzed the labor practices of Japanese-owned factories in California. More recently she has written extensively about low-wage immigrant workers, analyzing their employment conditions as well as the dynamics of immigrant labor organizing. She co-authored a 2013 study of California’s paid family leave program, focusing on its impact on employers and workers. She served as the 2016 President of the American Sociological Association, where her presidential address focused on Millennial-generation social movements. She has also conducted extensive policy-oriented research on such topics as wage theft, unionization trends, paid sick leave, and the aging workforce. After 21 years as a sociology professor at UCLA, where she directed the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment from 2001 to 2008, she returned to New York City in 2010. She is currently Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, where she chairs the Labor Studies Department.

 

Selected Publications

  • Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat

    Immigration has been a contentious issue for decades, but in the twenty-first century it has moved to center stage, propelled by an immigrant threat narrative that blames foreign-born workers, and especially the undocumented, for the collapsing living standards of American workers. According to that narrative, if immigration were summarily curtailed, border security established, and ""illegal aliens"" removed, the American Dream would be restored.

 

Recent News

  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, Sociology, 1981
  • M.A., University of California, Berkeley, Sociology, 1977
  • B.A., Brown University, Independent Major: “Women in Society” & Comparative Literature, 1975

  • Open Societies Foundations, 3/1/20-2/28/21, “Beyond the Immigrant Threat Narrative”
  • JPB Foundation, 3/1/20-2/28/21, “Immigration Project”
  • Fellow, 2018-19, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University
  • Sloan Foundation, 9/1/14-12/31/15: “Labor Unions and the Aging Workforce in New York City”
  • Russell Sage Foundation, 12/1/11-11/30/12 [with Stephanie Luce and Penelope Lewis]: “A Survey of the Occupy Wall Street Movement”
  • Russell Sage Foundation, 9/1/09-8/31/10 [with Eileen Appelbaum, Rutgers University]: “Work-Family Policy in California: Understanding Employers’ Experiences”
  • Ford Foundation,, 5/1/09-4/30/11 [with Eileen Appelbaum, Rutgers University]: “Work-Family Policies: The California Model”
  • Annie E. Casey Foundation, 4/1-3/31/10 [with Eileen Appelbaum, Rutgers University]: “Work-Family Policies: The California Model”
  • Russell Sage Foundation, 1/1/09-6/30/10: “Unregulated Work: Analyzing Workplace Violations in Chicago, L.A. and NYC”
  • Haynes Foundation, 1/1/07-12/31/09: “Documenting Unregulated Work: A Survey of Workplace Violations in Los Angeles”
  • Rockefeller Foundation, 1/06-12/06: “Documenting Unregulated Work: A Survey of Workplace Violations in Three Cities”
  • National Institute for Child Health and Development, 10/01/03-12/31/05: “Paid Family and Medical Leave in California”
  • Sloan Foundation, 7/1/03-6/30/04: “Effects of Paid Family and Medical Leave on California Employers”

  • Work and Labor Organization in the United States
  • Gender and Work
  • Paid Family Leave and Sick Leave
  • Violations of Employment and Labor Law
  • Immigration and Labor
  • The Aging Workforce

  • Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat. London: Polity, 2020
  • Frances Fox Piven: Scholar and Activist. Washington, D.C.: American Sociological Association, 2017
  • On Gender, Labor, and Inequality. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016
  • What Works for Workers? Public Policies and Innovative Strategies for Low-Wage Workers (edited volume) (with Stephanie Luce, Jennifer Luff and Joseph McCartin) New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2014
  • New Labor in New York: Precarious Worker Organizing and the Future of Unionism (edited volume) (with Ed Ott) Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014
  • Unfinished Business: Paid Family Leave in California and the Future of U.S. Work-Family Policy. (with Eileen Appelbaum) Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013
  • Working for Justice: The L.A. Model of Organizing and Advocacy (edited volume) (with Joshua Bloom and Victor Narro) Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010
  • A. Story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2006
  • Rebuilding Labor: Organizing and Organizers in the New Union Movement (edited volume) (with Kim Voss) Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004
  • Voices from the Front Lines: Organizing Immigrant Workers in Los Angeles. (with Kent Wong) Los Angeles: UCLA Labor Center (bilingual Spanish edited collection of interviews with union leaders), 2000
  • Organizing Immigrants: The Challenge for Unions in Contemporary California (edited volume) Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000
  • Farewell to the Factory: Auto Workers in the Late Twentieth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997 (Korean translation 1998)
  • Japan’s California Factories. Los Angeles: UCLA Institute of Industrial Relations, Monograph and Research Series, no. 55, 1991
  • Gender at Work: The Dynamics of Job Segregation by Sex during World War II. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1987 (Korean translation, 2001)
  • Women, Work and Protest: A Century of U.S. Women’s Labor History (edited volume) Boston and London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985

  • May 2020. Speaker and Co-Organizer of Conference on RETHINKING IMMIGRATION.  School of Labor and Urban Studies, CUNY (webcast)
  • April 2019, Closing Address, Conference on ALTERNATIVE WORKER MOVEMENTS AT A TIME OF POLITICAL CRISIS, Center for Global Workers’ Rights, Pennsylvania State University
  • June 2018, Keynote Address, Symposium on THE FUTURE OF WORK: RISKS, RIGHTS AND REWARDS, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  • April 2018, Moderator and Commentator, Session on “Wage Discrimination at Universities and Professional Schools,” 45th Annual Conference of the National Center for the Study of Collective. Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, New York.
  • December 2017, Presentation on “The Future of Work,” International Seminar on O TRABALHO CONTEMPORANEO: CRISE E POSSIBILADES, Unicamp (University of Campinas, Brazil
  • November 2017, Presentation, “The State of the Union and ‘Right to Work’,” Conference on JANUS & BEYOND: THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS, Joseph S. Murphy Institute, CUNY
  • October 2017, Presentation on Panel on “Disruptive Power in an Age of Precarity,” Conference in Celebration of the Work of Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, INSURGENCY FROM BELOW, CUNY Graduate Center
  • September 2017, Keynote Address, 15th Biennial Labour History Conference, WORKERS OF THE WORLD Brisbane (Australia)
  • September 2017, Keynote Address, Brazilian Association for Labor Studies (ABET), Rio de Janerio Brazil
  • August 2017, Presentation at Presidential Panel, ASA Town Hall, “Sociology’s Response to Trump,” 112th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Montreal, Canada
  • June 2017, Chair and Commentator, Session on “The Strange Career of Industrial Relations: Labor Research and Social Change in Postwar America,” Labor and Working Class History Association Conference, on SCALES OF STRUGGLE: COMMUNITIES, MOVEMENTS AND GLOBAL CONNECTIONS, Seattle
  • April 2017, Keynote Panelist, International Labour Process Conference on “Re-Connecting Work and Political Economy,” Sheffield, England
  • March 2017, Symposium 1943, University of Michigan Bicentennial Event, “Willow Run: Gender, Race and Factory Work during and after World War II, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • February 2017, Organizer and Presider, Session on “Organizing the Academic Proletariat,” Eastern Sociological Society, 2017 Annual Meeting, Philadelphia
  • December 2016, Keynote Address, Conference on “Second-Order Sexual Harassment,” CREA (Community of Researchers on Excellence for All), University of Barcelona (Spain)
  • September 2016, Keynote Address: “A New Political Generation: Millennials and the Post-2008 Cycle of Protest,” 64th Annual Meeting of the NY State Sociological Association, Rochester, NY
  • August 2016, Presidential Address, “A New Political Generation: Millennials and the Post-2008 Cycle of Protest,” 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Seattle, Washington
  • July 2016, Session Organizer and Presentation on “Low Wage Worker Organizing and Advocacy in the USA: Comparing Domestic Workers and Day Laborers,” Session on “Gender, Precarious Work and Labor Organizing, 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology, International Sociological Association, Vienna, Austria
  • June 2016, four presentations (a) Symposium on “U.S. Family Leave Policy: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back,” (b) Symposium on “Capturing Employment and Work Hours Instability,” (c) Workshop on “Attaining Paid Family and Sick Leaves in U.S. States and Cities,” and (d) Symposium on “Contesting Time: State and Local Battles over Paid Parental Leave, Paid Sick Time, and Schedules that Work,” Work and Family Researchers Network Conference on CAREERS, CARE & LIFE-COURSE FIT, Washington D.C.
  • June 2016, Respondent at Workshop on PURCHASING POWER? THE NEXT GENERATION OF RESEARCH ON MONEY AND POLITICS, Open Society Foundation and Scholars Strategy Network, New York City
  • April 2016, Presentation on “Feminisms of the Left,” Conference on FEMINISM, CAPITALISM AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION, The New School (New York)
  • April 2016, Presentation, Presidential Plenary on “Families As They Really Are,” Southern Sociological Society 79th Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA
  • March 2016, Organizer and Presider, Conference on PUBLIC-SECTOR UNIONS ON THE LINE: RIGHT-WING ATTACKS and LABOR MOVEMENT RESPONSES, The Murphy Institute, CUNY
  • February 2016, Organizer and Presenter, Exploratory Seminar on GENDER, PRECARIOUS WORK AND LABOR ORGANIZING, The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard Univesity
  • 2015, Keynote, “Women’s Work and Economic Crisis Revisited: Comparing the Great Recession and the Great Depression,” Conference on RIGHTS AND INCLUSION IN A GLOBAL ECONOMY, University of Milan, ITALY
  • 2015, Presentation on “Women Workers and the Crisis in the USA: The Rising Significance of Class,” Conference on PRECARIOUS AND UNREPRESENTED, University of Milan, ITALY
  • 2015, Discussant, Session on “Immigrant Labor,” 110th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Chicago, Illinois
  • July 2015, Keynote Speaker, Conference on DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING POLICIES FOR A BETTER FUTURE AT WORK, International Labour Office, Geneva, Switzerland
  • June 2015, Paper on “Labor Unions and the Great Recession,” (with Stephanie Luce), Conference on THE U.S. LABOR MARKET DURING AND AFTER THE GREAT RECESSION, Russell Sage Foundation, New York, NY
  • May 2015, Panelist in Session on “Birds of Passage Revisited by Michael Piore,” Labor and Employment Research Association, 67th Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA
  • May 2015, Presentation on “Collaborations and Convergence: Unions and ‘Alt-Labor’ in the 21st Century USA,” Labor and Employment Research Association, 67th Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA
  • April 2015, Speaker, Workshop on “The State of Labor, New Models of Organizing, and the Future of Work,” Levy Economics Institute, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
  • March 2015, Presentation at Workshop on “Social Rights after the Welfare State,” Columbia University, New York
  • February 2015, Organizer and Presider, Session on “Spotlight on New York City: Labor in 21st Century New York City,” Eastern Sociological Society, 2015 Annual Meeting, New York City
  • February 2015, Plenary Speaker, Presentation on “Inequality Among Women: Policy Implications of the Widening Class Divide,” Winter Meeting of Sociologists for Women in Society, Washington D.C.
  • February 2015, Participant, Work and Family Workshop, co-sponsored by Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Sociologists for Women in Society, Washington, D.C.
  • February 2015, Panelist at Book Event for The Occupiers: The Making of the 99 Percent Movement, by Michael Gould-Wartofsky, Department of Sociology, New York University
  • October 2014, Presentation, Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES) Roundtable on Mobilizing for migrant rights in the 21st century: Comparative perspectives on migrant organizing, labor and citizenship between Europe and the United States, University of Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  • October 2014, Panelist at Book Event for Mobilizing Against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers and the Crisis of Capitalism, edited by Lee Alder, Maite Tapia and Lowell Turner, Cornell University, New York City
  • October 2014, Panelist at Book Event for The Death and Life of American Labor by Stanley Aronowitz, Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work, CUNY Graduate Center, New York City
  • August 2014, Presentation on “Looking Back at Occupy Wall Street: Protest Movements in the Aftermath of the Great Recession” Thematic Session on The Politics of Wall Street,109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco, CA
  • August 2014, Presider, Author-Meets-Critics Session on Leslie McCall, The Undeserving Rich, 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco, CA
  • July 2014, Co-Organizer (with Michael Shalev) and Presenter (with Stephanie Luce and Penny Lewis) on “Changing The Subject: Occupy Wall Street’s Achievements and Prospects In Comparative Perspective,” Session on Occupy-Type Movements in Comparative Perspective, XVIII World Congress of Sociology, International Sociological Association Congress, Yokohama, Japan
  • July 2014, Panelist (Critic) in Author-Meets-Critics Session on Informal Labor, Formal Politics and Dignifying Discontent in India by Rina Agarwala, XVIII World Congress of Sociology, International Sociological Association, Yokohama, Japan
  • June 2014, Panelist (Author) in Author-Meets-Critics Session on Unfinished Business: Paid Family Leave in California and the Future of U.S. Work-Family Policy, by Ruth Milkman and Eileen Appelbaum, Work and Family Researchers Network Conference on CHANGING WORK AND FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS IN A GLOBAL ECONOMY, New York City
  • June 2014, Panelist (Critic) in Author-Meets-Critics Session on Unequal Time: Gender, Class and Family in Employment Schedules, by Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel, Work and Family Researchers Network Conference on CHANGING WORK AND FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS IN A GLOBAL ECONOMY, New York City
  • June 2014, Presentation on “Good For Business? The Case of Paid Sick Leave Legislation in Connecticut” (with Eileen Appelbaum), Work and Family Researchers Network Conference on CHANGING WORK AND FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS IN A GLOBAL ECONOMY, New York City
  • June 2014, Plenary Speaker, “Les Marges et la Sociologie du Travail: un Regard des Amériques,”14th International Conference on the Sociology of Work (Journées Internationales de Sociologie du Travail), Univ. of Lille (France)
  • June 2014, Presentation at Workshop on NEW MIGRANTS, ENTREPREUNEURS AND CITIES: AN INTERNATIONAL COMPARISON, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Birmingham (UK)
  • May 2014, Presentation on “Paid Sick Time/FMLA/Paid Family Leave,” Conference on WOMEN AND ECONOMIC SECURITY: CHANGING POLICY AND PRACTICE, Center for the Education of Women, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • April 2014, Presentation on “Giving Workers Voice: The Politics of Combatting Inequality,” Conference on WORKING DEMOCRACY: LABOR AND POLITICS IN AN ERA OF INEQUALITY, Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • April 2014, Paper and Presentation, “Millennial-Driven Social Movements in the USA: Occupy Wall Street and the ‘Dreamers’,” Workshop on NEW FORMS OF ACTIVISM, EMLYON Business School, Lyon, FRANCE
  • March 2014, Participant, Society for Human Resource Management Executive Roundtable on “The Changing Nature of Work and the Worker,” Los Angeles, CA
  • February 2014, Organizer and Presider, Session on “Organizing Immigrant Labor: Case Studies from New York City,” 84th Annual Meeting, Eastern Sociological Society, Baltimore, MD
  • February 2014, Discussant/Author, Author Meets Critics Book Session on Unfinished Business, 84th Annual Meeting, Eastern Sociological Society, Baltimore, MD
  • January 2014, Presentation, “Paid Family Leave: Lessons from California,” in session on “How Can We Pay for What Americans Want,” 26th Annual Policy Research Conference, National Academy of Social Insurance, Wash. D.C.
  • January 2014, Presentation (with Eileen Appelbaum), “Good for Business? The Case of Paid Sick Leave Legislation in Connecticut,” Allied Social Science Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia
  • December 2013, Chair, Session on “Labor Standards Erosion,” Symposium on NORMS, INSTITUTIONS AND LABOR STANDARDS, co-sponsored by Economic Policy Institute and the Heller School for Social Policy, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
  • November 2013, Presentation, “Women Workers and the Fair Labor Standards Act, Past and Present,” Conference on 75 YEARS OF THE FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT, U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C.
  • September 2013, Keynote Speaker, “Low Wage Immigrant Workers and the U.S. Political Economy,” Work, Employment and Society 2013 Conference, STATES OF WORK, University of Warwick (UK)
  • August 2013, Keynote Speaker, Conference on LABOR AND GLOBAL SOLIDARITY: THE US, CHINA AND BEYOND, co-sponsored by the Labor and Labor Movements Section of the American Sociological Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems, New York City
  • August 2013, Organizer of Regular Sessions on “Organizing Precarious Workers: Comparative Perspectives on Low-Wage Workers and Labor Movements” and “Expanding the Boundaries of the U.S. Labor Movement,” 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, New York City
  • August 2013, Organizer and Presenter, Regional Spotlight Session on “Social Inequality and Social Movements in 21st Century New York City,” 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, New York City
  • August 2013, Presentation in Thematic Session, “Lost in Translation? The Role of Research in Policy and Practice,” 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, New York City
  • June 2013, Organizer and Chair, Session on “Research by New Scholars,” Labor Research and Action Network Conference, Georgetown Law Center
  • June 2013, Chair and Presenter, Closing Plenary: “Looking Forward: New Directions and Strategies for Labor,” Labor And Working-Class History Association National Conference, RIGHTS, SOLIDARITY, JUSTICE: WORKING PEOPLE ORGANIZING, PAST AND PRESENT, New York City
  • June 2013, Critic, “Author Meets Critics,” Session on Barbara Garson, Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Recession,” Labor And Working-Class History Association National Conference, RIGHTS, SOLIDARITY, JUSTICE: WORKING PEOPLE ORGANIZING, PAST AND PRESENT, New York City
  • March 2013, Plenary Presentation: “Back to the Future? U.S. Labor in the New Gilded Age,” 31st International Labour Process Conference, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
  • October 2012, Presentation: “Changing the Subject: Occupy Wall Street’s Achievements and Prospects,” WORK, EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIETY, 25TH ANNIVERSARY CONFERENCE, British Library Conference Centre, London, England
  • August 2012, Discussant, Session on “Work and Politics of Precarious Labor: Views from the Global South,” 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Denver, Colorado
  • August 2012, Presentation: “Care Work: Class Matters,” Thematic Session, 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Denver, Colorado
  • August 2012, Presentation: “California’s paid family leave program: Low-wage workers and family leave insurance,” Second International Sociological Association Forum of Sociology, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • June 2012, Critic, “Author Meets Critics,” Session on Joan Williams, Reshaping the Work-Family Debate, Inaugural Meeting of the Work and Family Researchers Network, INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES ON WORK AND FAMILY, New York, NY
  • June 2012, Featured Session Presentation, “Class Matters: Learning from California’s Experience with Paid Family Leave,” Inaugural Meeting of the Work and Family Researchers Network, INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES ON WORK AND FAMILY, New York, NY
  • June 2012, Presentation: “Migration and Trade Union Responses in the US,” UNESCO-MOST Conference, LABOUR RIGHTS AS HUMAN RIGHTS: MIGRAITON, LABOUR MARKET RESTRUCTURING AND THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN GLOBAL GOVERNANCE, Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO) Norrköpping, Sweden
  • May 2012, Keynote Address: “Changing the Subject: Occupy Wall Street’s Achievements and Prospects,” 7th Organization Studies Workshop, ORGANIZATIONS AS SPACES OF WORK, Rhodes, Greece
  • April 2012, Keynote Address, “Immigrants and the U.S. Labor Movement: Achievements and Future Challenges,” Conference on THE SOCIAL CONDITIONS OF IMMIGRANT WORKERS AND FAMILIES, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud Minnesota
  • March 2012, Presentation, “Challenges and Possibilities for Immigrant Women Workers in the U.S.,” WOMEN AND WORK IN THE AMERICAS: A Symposium on Gender, Labor, Immigration and Human Rights, Center for Worker Education, City College of New York
  • February 2012, Presentation (with Eileen Appelbaum), “Low -Wage workers and Family Leave Insurance: The Case of California’s Paid Family Leave Program,” Conference on WHAT WORKS FOR WORKERS? PUBLIC POLICIES AND INNOVATIVE STRATEGIES FOR LOW-WAGE WORKERS, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
  • January 2012, Chair and Discussant, Session on “Job Quality: Trends and Challenges, 64th Annual Meeting, Labor and Employment Relations Association, Chicago, IL
  • November 2011, Presentation on “Wage and Hour Violations in Low-Wage Work: A Comparison of Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago,” Conference on THE QUALITY OF JOBS, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University
  • May 2011, Panelist on “Labor in the 21st Century,” Conference on BEYOND PRECARIOUS LABOR, Center for Place, Culture and Politics, CUNY Graduate Center
  • April 2011, Presentation on “Gender and Labor in The Economic Crisis,” Conference on TRABALHO, DOMINACAO E RESISTENCIA, Centro Universitario Maria Antonia, University of Sao Paulo (Brazil)
  • April 2011, Paper on “Women in the Immigrant Rights Movement,” Conference on “35 Years of Feminist Scholarship,” University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
  • January 2011, Presentation on “Paid Family Leave in California: Effects on Employers and Workers,” 63rd Annual Meeting of the Labor and Employment Relations Association, Denver, Colorado

  • 2010-14 Academic Director, Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, CUNY
  • 2001-08 Director, UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment
  • 2001-04 Director, University of California (statewide) Institute for Labor and Employment
  • 2003-04 Chair, Section on Labor and Labor Movements, American Sociological Association
  • 1990-92 Macrosociology Area Program Director, UCLA Sociology Department
  • 1992-99 Vice Chair and Undergraduate Affairs Director, UCLA Sociology Department
  • 1993-99 Chair, Women’s Studies Program Advisory Committee, UCLA
  • 1994-96 Executive Board, Industrial Relations Research Association (elected)
  • 1994-95 Chair, Advisory Panel on Technology, Productivity and Jobs in the Service Sector, Office of Technology Assessment, Congress of the United States

Ruth Milkman