Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) 514

The Theory and Practice of Trade Unions (Revision 1)

MAIS 514

Delivery Mode: Individualized study

Credits: 3

Precluded Course:MAIS 514 cannot be taken for credit if credit has already been obtained for Athabasca University's LBST 413.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Program: Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies

check availability

**Note:Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


MAIS 514: The Theory and Practice of Trade Unions. By looking at some of the things that unions really do, and that are actually quite different from media images of union bosses, strikers, and agitators, this course seeks to give some answers as to why unions are less popular and less successful than in the past. The course also shows that the weaknesses of labour movements today resembles periods of weakness in the past and that such periods were overcome through new ways of organizing and fighting for workers’ demands. Finally, the course will look at a recent fight back against the corporate onslaught on workers.

Course Objectives

After completing this course, you should be able to

  • explain the practices that unions use to organize, mobilize, and represent workers in Canada
  • evaluate the successes and shortcomings of current union practices
  • discuss the impact of globalization on unions today
  • draw lessons from labour history and use them in order to devise effective strategies for current labour movements
  • analyze the difficulties of mobilizing workers in times of economic crisis

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Assignment 1 25%
Assignment 2 15%
Assignment 3 10%
Assignment 4 50%
Total 100%

Course Materials

The package you received should contain each of the items listed below.


  • Camfield, David. 2011. Canadian Labour in Crisis – Reinventing the Workers’ Movement. Halifax & Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.
  • Leadbeater, David. (Ed.). 2008. Mining Town Crisis – Globalization, Labour and Resistance in Sudbury. Halifax & Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.
  • Mason, Paul. 2010. Live Working or Die Fighting – How the Working Class Went Global. Chicago: Haymarket Books.
  • Yates, Michael (ed.) 2012. Wisconsin Uprising – Labor Fights Back. New York: Monthly Review Press .

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page You will find Course Information (including the Assignment File and other pertinent information) at the top of the course home page. You will also find your Study Guide presented unit by unit online. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, February 1, 2014.