Cornell University

Kate Bronfenbrenner : Biography

Kate Bronfenbrenner is the Director of Labor Education Research and a Senior Lecturer at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations where she does teaching and research on union and employer strategies in organizing and bargaining in the global economy.  Kate has also done extensive research on the impact of trade policy on employment, wages, and unionization. Prior to joining the Cornell faculty in 1993, Bronfenbrenner was an Assistant Professor in Labor Studies at Penn State University and worked for many years as an organizer and union representative with the United Woodcutters Association in Mississippi and with SEIU in Boston, as well as a welfare rights organizer in Seattle, Washington.

Bronfenbrenner, who received her Ph.D. from Cornell in 1993, is the co-author and editor of several books on union strategies including Global Unions: Challenging Transnational Capital Through Cross Border Campaigns, Union Organizing in the Public Sector: An Analysis of State and Local Elections, Organizing to Win: New Research on Union Strategies, and Ravenswood: The Steelworkers' Victory and the Revival of American Labor.  She has also published numerous articles, book chapters, and monographs on employer and union behavior in public and private sector organizing and first contract campaigns, comprehensive campaigns, union leadership development, women and unions, and global trade and investment policy.  Her most recent study on employer behavior in NLRB certification campaigns No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing has played a central role in informing the current debate on the Employee Free Choice Act.

Because of her expertise in contemporary labor issues and her research on union and employer behavior in certification election campaigns, Bronfenbrenner has been brought in to testify as an expert witness at Labor Department and Congressional hearings and is frequently quoted in the major news media.

Bronfenbrenner has been the recipient of many awards most notably the Labor Research Association's  Ernest DeMaio Labor Award in 2009, IRRA’s  Outstanding Young Scholar Award, ILR’s 60th Anniversary Outstanding Contribution to Labor Education Award, the Labor Party’s first Karen Silkwood Award in 1998, the New York Labor History Association’s John Commerford Labor Education Award in 2000, the General Mills Foundation Award for Exemplary Undergraduate Teaching in 2003, the Robert N. Stern Mentoring Award in 2007, and was selected to give the 24th Memorial Sefton Lecture at the University of Toronto in 2006. 

Finally, a central part of Kate’s work is teaching research to young people through employing undergraduate research assistants on her policy research projects. Each year students who have worked with Kate graduate from ILR and go on to research jobs with unions, government or NGOs or to pursue graduate degrees in the social sciences using the qualitative and quantitative research skills they learned working on these studies.