The Section was established in 1922 through the suggestion of Clarence J. Hicks, with financial support by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. A primary objective of the Section was to develop a library specializing in labor subjects designed for the use of students, faculty, practitioners, and researchers in this country and abroad. Initially, the Section's program of research and publications was influenced by developments in the field of industrial relations. In the 1920's large firms instituted employee representation plans, employee stock ownership, and various benefit plans such as group life insurance and company pensions. In 1928, the coverage of employee representation plans (later dubbed "company unions") exceeded one and a half million workers. The Sections' early reports included many studies of experiences with such programs.
As the Great Depression of the 1930's deepened and unionization and collective bargaining swept through the country the Section's program of research and publications encompassed that experience. From 1935 on, much of the Section's staff was engaged in the study of employment security and social insurance. During World War II, many labor economists, including some associated with the Section, served as members of panels, boards, and commissions under the War Labor Board and its regional offices. Such wartime experience had a major influence on developments in industrial relations research in the postwar years and on the research of the Industrial Relations Section in the late 1940's and 1950's.
Immediately after World War II, a wave of strikes and labor disputes swept through the country. A widespread desire to continue the cooperative union-management relations developed during the war, and to gain further understanding of the factors that contribute to constructive labor relations, led to the establishment of many new programs and institutions for the study of labor subjects. The Industrial Relations Section began a series of conferences, involving representatives of labor and management that carried through the 1950's. In the 1950's and 1960's the Sections' programs were expanded into three subject areas: the relationship between management development and economic growth in this country, the human problems encountered by American companies operating abroad, and comparative study of managerial approaches to labor problems in both industrialized and underdeveloped countries. An increasing portion of the Section's research product was published in the form of a journal article or a chapter in a book of articles.
During the 1970's, research projects of the Section and training of graduate students tended to emphasize methodological advances that were being applied throughout the social sciences. Much of the Section's research in this period involved the use of quantitative and econometric methods of analysis. By 1978-1979 the Section Library had accumulated approximately 100,000 documents and miscellaneous pamphlets. The Library is presently located in the Social Science Reference Center in Firestone Library. An important element in the Section's research program has been the training of graduate students in data collection and analysis and in the supervision of Ph.D. dissertations in economics.
Current Section research interests include aspects of unemployment and racial discrimination, the economics of labor supply and retirement, education and school quality, the effects on minimum wages, labor turnover and job duration, quality of life issues, law and economics. There has been a continuing relationship of faculty in government service throughout the history of the IR Section.
Industrial Relations Section
1 Washington Rd
Princeton, NJ 08544
Phone 609-258-4040, Fax 609-258-2907