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 Graduate Center, CUNY and at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, where she chairs the Labor Studies Department.
Professional Affiliations and Leadership (2015-present)
- "Gender, Class, and the Gig Economy: The Case of Platform-Based Food Delivery" (with Luke Elliott-Negri, Kathleen Griesbach, and Adam Reich) Critical Sociology, forthcoming.
- "Algorithmic Control in Platform Food Delivery Work" (with Kathleen Griesbach, Adam Reich, and Luke Elliott-Negri). Socius, vol. 5: 1-15.
- "Immigrants Didn't Kill Your Union," Dissent (Spring 2019), pp. 57-64.
- "The World We Have Lost: U.S. Labor in the Obama Years," in Wilbur C. Rich, ed. Looking Back on President Barack Obama's Legacy (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019), pp. 115-131.
- "Low-Wage Worker Organizing and Advocacy in the USA: Comparing Domestic Workers and Day Laborers," Political Power and Social Theory, vol. 35 (2018)
- "Immigrants are not the cause of labour degradation," Nature Human Behavior, 16 April 2018.
- "Trump and the Future of U.S. Labor," Novos Estudios (Brazil), vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 99-115
- "The Senior Precariat," New Labor Forum, vol. 26, issue 1 (January 2018), pp. 1-8
- "Organizing the Academic Precariat in the United States," (with Celeste Atkins, Louis Esparza and Catherine Moran), Global Labor Journal, vol. 9, no. 1 (2018), pp. 76-81.
- "Labor Unions and the Great Recession" (with Stephanie Luce), RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, vol. 3, no. 3 (April 2017)
- "A New Political Generation: Millennials and the Post-2008 Wave of Protest," American Sociological Review, vol. 82, no. 1 (February 2017)
- "The Double Game of Unions and The Labor Movement," in Players and Arenas: The Interactive Dynamics of Protest, eds. James M. Jasper and Jan Wilhelm Duyvendak (Amsterdam Univ. Press, 2015), pp. 169-86.
- Review of Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century in the European Journal of Sociology, vol. 55. no. 3 (2014)
- "Millennial Movements: Occupy Wall Street and the Dreamers," Dissent, vol. 61, no. 3 (Summer 2014)
- "Back to the Future? U.S. Labor in the New Gilded Age," British Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 51, no. 4 (December 2013), pp. 645-665.
- “‘We Are the Ones Who Are Out in Front’: Women’s Leadership in the Immigrant Rights Movement," (with Veronica Terriquez), Feminist Studies, vol. 38, no. 3 (Fall 2012), pp. 723-752.
- “Wage and hour violations in urban labour markets: a comparison of Los Angeles, New York and Chicago,” with Ana Luz Gonzalez and Peter Ikeler, Industrial Relations Journal, vol. 43, no. 5 (Sept. 2012), pp. 378-98.
- “L.A.’s Past, America’s Future? The 2006 Immigrants Rights Protests and Their Antecedents,” in Rallying for Immigrant Rights: The Fight for Inclusion in 21st Century America, eds. Kim Voss and Irene Bloemraad (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), pp. 201-214.
- “Immigrant Workers, Precarious Work, and the U.S. Labor Movement,” Globalizations, vol. 8, no. 3 (June 2011), pp. 361-372.
- “Immigrant Workers and the Future of American Labor” ABA Journal of Labor and Employment Law, vol. 26, no. 2 (Winter 2011), pp. 295-310.
- “Class Disparities, Market Fundamentalism and Work-Family Policy: Lessons from California,” in Gender Equality: Transforming Family Divisions of Labor, eds. Erik Olin Wright, Janet C. Gornick, and Marcia K. Meyers (New York: Verso, 2009), pp. 339-364.
- “Putting Wages Back into Competition: Deunionization and Degradation in Place-Bound Industries,” in The Gloves-Off Economy: Problems and Possibilities at the Bottom of America’s Labor Market, eds. Annette Bernhardt, Heather Boushey, Laura Dresser, and Chris Tilly (Champaign, IL: Labor and Employment Relations Association, 2008), pp. 65-89.
- “Two Worlds of Unionism: Women and the New Labor Movement,” in The Sex of Class: Women Transforming American Labor, ed. Dorothy Sue Cobble (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007), pp. 63-80.
- “Labor Organizing Among Mexican-Born Workers in the U.S.: Recent Trends and Future Prospects,” Labor Studies Journal, vol. 32, no. 1 (March 2007), pp. 96-112.
- “Divided We Stand,” New Labor Forum, vol. 15, no. 1 (Spring 2006), pp. 38-46.
- “Win or Lose: Lessons from Two Contrasting Union Campaigns,” Social Policy, vol. 35, no. 2 (2004-05), pp. 43-47.
- “Paid Family Leave in California: New Research Findings” (with Eileen Appelbaum) The State of California Labor 2004 (Berkeley: University of California Press), pp. 45-67.
- “California Union Membership: A Turn-of-the-Century Portrait” (with Daisy Rooks) The State of California Labor 2003 (Berkeley: University of California Press), pp. 3-37.
- “Reviving the American Labour Movement: Institutions and Mobilization” (with Richard Hurd and Lowell Turner) European Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 9, no. 1 (March 2003), pp. 99-117.
- “Growing Apart: The ‘New Economy’ and Job Polarization in California, 1992-2000” (with Rachel E. Dwyer) The State of California Labor 2002 (Berkeley: University of California Press), pp. 3-36.
- “Justice for Janitors in Los Angeles: Lessons from Three Rounds of Negotiations” (with Christopher L. Erickson, Catherine L. Fisk, Daniel J.B. Mitchell and Kent Wong) British Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 40, no. 3 (Sept. 2002), pp. 543-67.
- “Organizing Immigrant Workers: Case Studies from Southern California” (with Kent Wong) in Rekindling the Movement: Labor’s Quest for 21st Century Relevance, eds. Lowell Turner, Harry Katz and Richard Hurd (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), pp. 99-128.
- “The Macrosociology of Paid Domestic Labor” (with Ellen Reese and Benita Roth) Work and Occupations, vol. 25, no. 4 (Nov. 1998), pp. 483-510.
- “The Impact of Foreign Investment on US Industrial Relations: The Case of California's Japanese-owned Plants," Economic and Industrial Democracy, vol. 13, no. 2 (May 1992), pp. 151-182.
- "Technological Change in an Auto Assembly Plant: The Impact on Workers' Tasks and Skills" (with Cydney Pullman) Work and Occupations, vol. 18, no. 2 (May 1991), pp. 123-146.
- “Gender and Trade Unionism in Historical Perspective,” in Women, Politics and Change, eds. Louise Tilly and Patricia Gurin (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1990), pp. 87-107.
- “Women's History and the Sears Case,” Feminist Studies, vol. 12, No. 2 (Summer 1986). pp. 375-400.
- “Redefining Women's Work: The Sexual Division of Labor in the Auto Industry during World War II,” Feminist Studies, vol. 8, No. 2 (Summer 1982) pp. 337‑372.
- "Women's Work and Economic Crisis: Some Lessons of the Great Depression," Review of Radical Political Economics, vol. 8, No. 1 (Spring 1976), pp. 73‑97.
Awards and Honors (2015-present)
- Chair, Department of Labor Studies, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies (2020-present)
- President, American Sociological Association (2015-2016)
- Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University (2018-2019)
- John Comerford Labor Education Award, from the New York Labor History Association (2016)
- Fellow, Advanced Research Collaborative, CUNY Graduate Center (2015)
- Sociology of Labor and Labor Movements
- Change and Crisis in Universities
- Labor and Inequality: Gender, Race, Class, Immigration and the New Precariat
- Labor and Social Movements
- Women, Work and Public Policy
- Toward a New Labor Movement? Community-Based Organizations, Unions, and Worker Centers in New York City