Labor Resource Center

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Future of Work Research Initiative

A group of women constructions workers on a break

Through the Future of Work Research Initiative, funded by the University of Massachusetts President’s Office, the Labor Resource Center undertakes original research specific to Massachusetts workers. Our established areas for research are low-wage workers, women workers, immigrant workers, workforce development, racism, and the public sector. Whenever possible, we use a participatory research model for our research projects, where LRC staff work closely with community and labor partners to identify research questions and to establish the research methodology and time frame.

The research papers in this series will explore a broad range of issues that affect working people in Massachusetts, from current conditions and policies, to lessons we can draw from past labor struggles and experiences. Examples of papers prepared by faculty, students, and activists are included below, and available on ScholarWorks.

"Low Wage Earners and Low Wage Jobs in Greater Boston" by Anneta Argyres, Brandynn Holgate, and Susan Moir
Anybody who has ever been employed can readily list the qualities of a good job. Some are easily identified factors, such as good wages, health benefits, paid sick and vacation time, and a pension plan. Others are harder to measure, such as job security, reasonable workloads, flexible work schedules, workplace safety and health, or being treated with respect. In either case, it’s clear that job quality is something to which every working person pays attention. Click here to read paper (pdf format)

Unfinished Business: Building Equality for Women in the Construction Trades by Susan Moir, Meryl Thomson, and Christa Kelleher
This review and analysis of over one hundred and twenty published and unpublished sources on the unfinished business of increasing women’s participation in the construction workforce over the past thirty-plus years aims to:

  • Provide a definitive assessment of the consistency of evidence on the daunting challenges facing women who seek to enter and advance in the construction workplace and
  • Examine the failure of a critical social policy intended to address occupational segregation and ensure access to high-paying jobs to women. Click here to read paper (pdf format)

"Working Alone: Protecting and Building Solidarity in the Workplace of the Future" by Charley Richardson
This paper explores the foundations of solidarity in the workplace and the challenges to building solidarity in the modern day workplace. The author identifies eight workplace trends that are increasing individual isolation and destroying workplace-based social networks. After comparing two models of social networks, the author suggests specific steps workers and unions can take to protect solidarity at work. Click here to read paper (pdf format)

"Gaming in Massachusetts: Can Casinos bring 'Good Jobs' to the Commonwealth?" by Marlene Kim, Susan Moir, and Anneta Argyres
This study examines the quality of jobs in the United States gaming industry and analyzes enabling legislation in five states that have legalized gaming. The authors find that the gaming industry -- particularly the unionized sector of the casino hotel industry -- provides good jobs with good wages and benefits for workers with less than a high school degree. The authors conclude that workforce development efforts in Massachusetts must include strategies to address improving the quality of entry-level jobs. Click here to read paper (pdf format)

"Building Trades Apprentice Training in Massachusetts: An Analysis of Union and Non-Union Programs, 1997-2007" by Anneta Argyres and Susan Moir
This study provides an analysis and comparison of the efficacy and sustainability of union and non-union building trades apprentice training programs in Massachusetts. The authors analyzed several outcome variables including total enrollment levels and completion rates; enrollment and completion rates for minorities, women and other non-traditional populations; and program size and sustainability.  Based on the findings, the authors offer recommendations to the Massachusetts Division of Apprentice Training. Click here to read paper (pdf format)

The Boston-area HASWIC Research Circle: An Innovative Participatory Method for Coloring in the Picture of a Special Work Environment, Susan Moir and Lenore S. Azaroff
Recent qualitative studies have investigated some of the hazards affecting women in non-traditional trades such as construction. However, one-time interactions among researcher participants, and between researchers and participants, in standard settings such as focus groups and interviews, cannot provide the time, space, and relationships to fully explore tradeswomen's in-depth knowledge of their work environment. This study applied a Scandinavian method called the Research Circle to convene a group of experienced women construction workers repeatedly over a period of two years so they could collaborate with researchers in explaining workplace issues. The results both validated and expanded upon previous findings about health and safety for women in construction, including gender discrimination, lack of access to sanitary facilities, retaliation for reporting hazards and injuries, and inadequate training and equipment. Especially important, findings illustrate some of the complex hierarchical social structures involved in both female and male construction workers responding to hazardous conditions. Click here to read more

“Sharing the Costs, Reaping the Benefits: Paid Family and Medical Leave in Massachusetts,” by Randy Albelda and Alan Clayton-Matthews
This report provides an analysis of the costs and benefits associated with Massachusetts Senate President Robert Travaglini's proposed family and medical leave insurance program (April 2006). The authors developed a simulation model to estimate the employer and employee wage costs when employees take paid and unpaid family and medical leaves, and they use this model to compare the current costs with those predicted under the Travaglini proposal. Click here to read paper (pdf format)

For information about how the authors estimated the costs of the program and the specifics about their model, please follow the link below to "IWPR/LRC Paid Family and Medical Leave Simulation Model," originally reported as an Appendix in their report to the IWPR. Click here to read more about the IWPR/LRC Paid Family and Medical Leave Simulation Model (pdf format)