Public talk featuring Ruth Milkman explores new political generation

York’s Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean (CERLAC) and the Global Labour Research Centre (GLRC) will co-sponsor a public talk with Ruth Milkman, professor of sociology, CUNY Graduate Centre, and research director at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education & Labor Studies.

The talk, titled “Occupiers and Dreamers: Insiders and Outsiders in a New Political Generation” will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 2, from 3 to 4:30pm in 519 Kaneff Tower.

Milkman will explore how young adults have long been over-represented among political activists, and how their generationally specific experiences and world views often shape social movement agendas.

Although these phenomena have received limited scholarly attention in recent years, they are highly salient features of the new cycle of protest that has emerged in the 21st century United States. This talk will analyze two key components of that cycle: the 2011 Occupy Wall Street uprising and the movement of undocumented immigrant “dreamers.” Both were led by U.S. “millennials” (born between 1980 and 2000).

Ruth Milkman
Ruth Milkman

Milkman argues that millennials comprise a new political generation, with a world view that sets it apart from previous generations of U.S. activists. She compares the occupiers’ and dreamers’ political strategies and organizational forms and argues that, despite a shared world view, this new political generation is heterogeneous in regard to modes of mobilization.

The occupiers were a relatively privileged group of young people whose aspirations were frustrated, especially in the context of the Great Recession, threatening them with exclusion from the economic stratum they had long expected to enter. By contrast, the dreamers were already marginalized because of their undocumented status and sought inclusion within the economic mainstream. Their different social locations, in turn, contributed to occupiers’ and dreamers’ distinctly different political strategies and organizational forms.

Milkman is a sociologist of labour and labour movements. She has written on a variety of topics involving work and organized labour in the United States, past and present. Recently she has written extensively about low-wage immigrant workers in the U.S., analyzing their employment conditions as well as the dynamics of immigrant labour organizing.

She helped lead a multi-city team that produced a widely publicized 2009 study documenting the prevalence of wage theft and violations of other workplace laws in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. She also co-authored a study of California’s paid family leave program, focusing on its impact on employers and workers.

After 21 years as a sociology professor at UCLA, where she directed the Institute for Research on Labour and Employment from 2001 to 2008, she returned to New York City in 2010 for a position at the CUNY Graduate Centre and Joseph S. Murphy Institute. In August 2015, she became president of the American Sociological Association.

All are welcome to attend the event, and refreshments will be served.

For more information, visit the Facebook event page at