The UMass Amherst Labor Relations and Research Center, as it was originally named, was founded in 1964. AFL-CIO President George Meany visited the Amherst campus to give a commencement address and encouraged the university to start a Labor Studies program similar to those that existed at many other land-grant institutions. From the beginning, Labor Studies was designed as a multi-disciplinary program drawing on the strengths of faculty in many departments across campus. This new program was unique given its focus on on labor and workers’ rights, distinguishing it from joint labor-management programs. This focus quickly put the Labor Center on the map. With a strong faculty and excellent graduate students from all over the world, the UMass Labor Center became the leading labor studies program in the United States.
In 1996, the Union Leadership and Activism (ULA) program was created for union leaders, staff and activists. The only limited residency graduate program of its kind, it is has been a highly successful part of the UMass Labor Center for more than 20 years. In 2010 the Labor Center joined the Sociology Department. With its strong focus on work and labor issues, as well as gender, race, and immigration, Sociology was a natural home for Labor Studies. While we maintain control over our graduate and undergraduate programs we often collaborate with faculty and graduate students in the Sociology department.