There is an ongoing history of efforts to build bridges between labor and management at the New School that lasted from 1919 through the 1970s. Courses on labor and management were initially offered in the New School’s first full academic year (1919-20): Modern Trade Unionism by Robert Bruère and Administration of Human Relations in Industry by H.C. Metcalf. The following year, Leo Wolman offered Introduction to American Trade Unionism and Present Tendencies in the American Labor Movement. In April, 1921, the New School hosted the “first national conference on Workers’ Education in the United States” and committed itself to providing headquarters and noted faculty support for the Workers’ Educational Bureau of America that was organized during that conference. In 1925-26, Leo Wolman joined the New School’s Board of Directors and Sidney Hillman, President of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, joined the New School’s Advisory Committee, remaining on it through 1928-29, its final year of existence.
The curriculum in labor-management issues from the 1930s to the 1960s was enriched by the addition of two women to the Graduate Faculty who were keenly interested in labor economics and labor sociology. Labor economist Frieda Wunderlich initiated courses on Labor Problems, Social Security, Employment and Unemployment, The Labor Movement and Employers’ Associations in the Chief Industrial Countries, and a Seminar of Industrial Relations; her assistant, Julie Meyer, later an independent professor, introduced courses in Current Labor Events, Sociology of Labor, Collective Bargaining, and Industrial Sociology-Management and Labor. Courses the two women taught together included The Union Situation in New York City, Labor Legislation and Industrial Relations, and Introduction to Labor Economics and Labor Sociology. Finally, from Spring 1955 through Spring 1959, Julie Meyer ran a Labor Management Workshop, with the participation of Frieda Wunderlich, Julius Manson, and other labor and management experts.
The 1960s were especially rich in labor-management activities at the school. In March 1960, the Sidney Hillman Memorial Room and Documentary Collection were established in the List Building. In Fall 1962, long-time board member Albert Mayer taught orientation courses for business executives. In the inaugural Spring 1965 program of the Center for New York City Affairs, Howard Samuel, assistant president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, taught a course on Organized Labor in New York City. A Fall 1965 issue of the New School Bulletin noted that Julius Manson was honored as the “founder and chairman for ten years of the New School Labor-Management Luncheons.” The Fall 1965 New School course catalog listed the availability of both business and trade union scholarships for prospective applicants. Edward Swayduck, the president of Amalgamated Lithographers Local No.1, was a member of the New School’s Board of Trustees from 1966-1975; when the New School expanded to 65 5th Avenue in 1969, the auditorium designed on the lobby floor was named the Edward Swayduck Auditorium in his honor, and was dedicated in 1970.
The labor and management curriculum in undergraduate and continuing adult education was less robust in the 1970s than previously, but some courses were still offered: A Seminar in Labor Journalism in Fall 1972; Collective Bargaining and Labor Relations in Fall 1975; Labor and the City (on employment in the public sector); Folk Music, Folklore and History: An Analytical Survey (including coverage of labor and protest songs); Labor Arbitration; Theory and Practice of Setting Labor Rates in the Garment Industry. In the Graduate Program of Human Resources and Manpower Development, a course on The Legal Framework of Labor Relations ran in Fall 1976; courses on Issues in Health Care Labor Relations; Radicalism, Reformism, and the Labor Movement; and Supervision and Management were offered in Fall 1979. Of the aforementioned courses, only the garment industry labor rates course and Supervision and Management were still being offered by 1983, and by 1989, even they were gone.
From the 1970s through the 1990s, the Graduate Faculty continued the heritage of Frieda Wunderlich and Julie Meyer, offering such courses as Labor Economics I & II (on its theory and history), and, in the 1970s, various seminar courses examining socio-economic aspects of labor economics. In the first half of the 1970s, John Owen dominated labor economics instruction; from Fall 1975 until his untimely death in 1996, David Gordon, a left-wing Harvard-educated economist and influential member of the Union for Radical Political Economics, provided decisive instruction and leadership. Over this time, graduate courses relevant to labor moved toward a broader approach – from courses specifically on trade unionism and labor relations to courses that would analyze discrimination against segments of workers, such as women and workers of color, and examine the political economy of education and of the family. This broader emphasis continued through the 1980s, when Aristide Zolberg added a course on international migrations in the labor economics curriculum, and in the 1990s, when classes devoted to extended analyses of the economic impact of class, race, and gender were offered. By the end of the decade, labor economics still survived as an area of concentration, but specific curricular emphases on union and labor relations had disappeared. Though labor- management relations did not continue as a focus of interest as time went by, the efforts on record constitute a fascinating historical artifact that merits attention today.