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Writing in Labor and Employment Relations
The Future of Work: Challenges, Opportunities & Impact
Course Syllabus - Spring 2019

Instructor: Shawn Randy Fisher
Course: 37:575:300
Day Sundays, 1 pm - 3:50 pm
Duration: 13 weeks (over 14 weeks), no class March Break Week (March 15 & 22)
Dates: Jan 26, Feb 2, 9, 16, 23, March 1, 8, 29, April 5, 12, 19, 26, May 3
Location: Labor Education Center, (LEC 133) - 50 Labor Center Way, Cook Campus
Office Hours: By Appointment - Phone / Skype / Online


Course Description

Writing in Labor and Employment Relations offers students a unique opportunity to practice writing for a business, labor or professional audience as they develop, research and revise documents focused on relevant, 21st century labor themes and the future of work. The purpose of the class is to prepare students to develop their writing and critical thinking skills in analyzing practical labor and employment issues. Students receive timely and regular feedback to help them develop their writing skills and assignments.

Learning Outcomes

The course learning outcomes are to:

  • Communicate complex ideas effectively and transition from academic to professional writing for labor and employment contexts
  • Demonstrate mastery of standard grammar and writing mechanics
  • Utilize various strategies and organizational techniques in the writing process
  • Significantly improve students' ability to write effective professional communication
  • Analyze, evaluate and synthesize information and ideas from from multiple sources (i.e., audiences, purposes, situations, primary and secondary data) to generate new insights.
  • Respond effectively to editorial feedback from peers, instructors, and/or supervisors through successive drafts and revision.
  • Develop strategies to research and facilitate communication across diverse cultures
  • Recognize and avoid plagiarism
  • Demonstrate visual display, user experience and presentation skills
  • Develop collaborative group communication and writing skills

Required Textbook

Alred, Brusaw, and Oliu, The Business Writer’s Companion, 8th edition (2017), Bedford/St. Martin’s (online format, not the Kindle version

Available at Amazon as an E-Book or Rental. Make sure to get the 8th edition, readings correspond to page numbers in the syllabus.

Articles & Resources

Instructor Bio

Shawn "Randy" Fisher is a communications and digital marketing specialist with an interest in helping people write well, ace their interviews and get ahead in their careers. ( He has taught in three departments at Rutgers University and has consulted with organizations in the private and public sectors and nonprofits, 501c3s and social entrepreneurs. He began his career as a journalist in Canada with the Globe and Mail, Financial Post and CBC Radio. He is also an executive mentor with the Global Good Fund in Washington, DC. When he's not working or preparing for class, he enjoys taking his doggie - a lab-pointer-mix "Maggie" to Colonial Park.

Teaching Approach

  • I believe that when learners are motivated, they are more likely to learn. I consider you to be adults - LEARNING IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.
  • I prefer short lectures, and actively facilitated, guided and experiential discussions and 2-way, interactive activities.
  • Improving week-by-week is important. To facilitate that, I assign multiple DRAFT / VERSIONS of the same Assignment.
    • While the DRAFT Assignments are not graded, they are an important way of measuring your own success and improving your writing. They give the Instructor a window into understanding where your gaps are and areas for improvement. They also tell me who is trying to improve and who is doing the work.I respect this effort, and will prioritize my feedback to them, in class. In other words, they will be first in line. After I provide feedback to them, I can provide feedback to others in our class.
  • Students EARN good grades by doing the work and learning required. (I do notice improvement throughout the term.)
  • I am aware that juggling school, work, family, friends and relationships is stressful. Organizational skills and time management are as important, as ensuring that students adjust their expectations of themselves and their performance - and take time to adapt - to new situations, contexts, systems and processes. It will come, over time.
  • I try to use visuals (i.e.., images, videos) when / wherever possible.
  • As an Adult Learner, DO NOT WAIT until you receive a "C", "D", or even an "F" on a paper, and go into high-stress, panic-mode. And yes, we certainly don't want you to fail the course. Reach out to me when you need assistance.

Course Requirements

Computers, Tablets, Phones & Electronic Devices Not Permitted In Class - 1st Class is an Exception

  • Phones are to be turned off for the duration of the class. Texting is NOT permitted. (You may use your phone during the break.)
  • If a student chooses to ignore this policy, s/he will be marked as absent, and lose any points for class attendance / participation.
  • Texting is not permitted.
  • Bring a Pen / Pencil and Paper to Class to take notes.


  • Prompt attendance is required and expected for every class. We meet one (1) day a week; a second (2nd) absence may result in failure of the course.
  • Absences affect the learning experience for you and your colleagues. If you are 15 MINUTES LATE = 1 ABSENCE. This is STRICTLY ENFORCED.
  • Absence is NOT an excuse for late or missing work — if you know you are going to be absent, YOU MUST SUBMIT ALL WORK BY THE DUE DATE / TIME. If you are going to be absent, it is your responsibility to let me know via email, and the reason why. For legitimate reasons, (i.e., religious holiday, medical appointment, condition), report it at:}}

Assignments & Deadlines

  • All assignments must be submitted ONLINE to Canvas. NO HARD / PRINT COPIES accepted.
  • All assignments are DUE THE NIGHT OF THE DAY WE MEET IN CLASS, the latest by 11:59 PM.
  • Late papers (i.e., timestamped or received 12:00 PM) will be subject to the Late Assignment Policy
  • All required assignments must be submitted to pass the course.

Special Needs / Disability & Accommodations

If you are a qualified student with special needs / disability seeking accommodations for your learning activities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are required to self-identify with the Office of Disability Services. ( No accommodations will be granted without documentation from the Office of Disability Services. Should you require my assistance in facilitating the process, I will be happy to do so. Just let me know.

Students are not to bring family members or pets for day care or babysitting.

Below is the full contact information for the office of disability services:

  • Lucy Stone Hall, Livingston Campus, 54 Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Suite A145, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8045.
  • E-mail Address:
  • Phone: (848) 445-6800 • Fax: (732) 445-3388

Communications & Notifications

Canvas will be frequently used as a means of communication. Every student is responsible for any information conveyed via Canvas. Be sure that you are able to receive announcements through this platform. Check your email inbox to ensure you are receiving emails.


The majority of class time is for experiential learning and peer review. The Instructor DOES NOT REVIEW PRIOR CLASSES. Instructor may/may not cover the assigned articles, texts and resources. It is up to students to stay up-to-date - you can see which content is required by reviewing the Syllabus and the Course on the Canvas Learning Management System.


Homework is required in this course. Plan your time and activities to meet the requirements and deadlines specified in the course. Get to know your classmates and SHARE PHONE NUMBERS & EMAIL ADDRESSES. If you miss (part of) a class, you can SPEAK WITH YOUR PEERS and catch up.

Tutoring Assistance

Tutoring assistance for this course is free and available at Rutgers Writing Centers. If you need writing assistance - grammar, phrasing, clarity - Rutgers has Learning Centers - HIGHLY-RECOMMENDED! - on the different campuses that can help. You can make an appointment, send in a copy of your paper, and then get assistance. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

You will be able to make an appointment and meet in-person with a writing coach, and possibly online - you will have to check. Visit:

Classroom behavior

It is the University policy that free discussion, inquiry, and expression are encouraged in class. However, classroom behavior that interferes with either (a) the instructor’s ability to conduct the class; or (b) the ability of students to benefit from the instruction is not acceptable. Examples may include routinely entering class late or departing early; use of beepers, cellular telephones, or other electronic devices; repeatedly talking in class without being recognized; talking while others are speaking; or arguing in a way that is perceived as “crossing the civility line.” In the event of a situation where a student legitimately needs to carry a beeper/cellular telephone to class, prior notice and approval of the instructor is required. Classroom behavior which is deemed inappropriate and cannot be resolved by the student and the faculty member may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct ( for administrative or disciplinary review as per the Code of Student Conduct which may be found at

Final Grades (breakdown)

  • Attendance, Class Participation & Discussions - Posts and Substantive Replies - 20%
  • Resume + Cover Letter - 20%
  • Memo / Progress Report - 30%
  • Background Note / Recommendations - 30%
  • Reflection: Course Learnings & Real-World Application - 10% - NOT APPLICABLE THIS TERM


  • All Assignments MUST be submitted to pass course

(Comment.gif: Assignments are graded A-F (A, B+, B, C+, C, F))

Grading Criteria (Equivalency)

  • A 93-100
  • B+ 87-89
  • B 83-86
  • C+ 77-79
  • C 73-76
  • D+ 67-60
  • D 63-66
  • F less than 60

Pre-Course: Preparation & Guidance

Required Text

Alred, Brusaw, and Oliu, The Business Writer’s Companion, 8th edition (2017), Bedford/St. Martin’s
Amazon (Blue-Cover) 1. Buy OR Rent the E-Textbook Version -

Readings (Throughout Semester)

  • Alred, Chapter 11 - Grammar
    • "Dangling Modifiers, p. 349
    • "Person", p. 360
    • "Sentence Construction to Sentence Fragments", pp. 370-377
    • "Tense, Verbs and Active Voice", pp. 377-385
  • Alred, Chapter 12 - Punctuation and Mechanics, pp. 388-423
  • Alred, Chapter 10 - Style and Clarity
    • "Business Writing to Loaded Arguments", pp. 306-319;
    • Tone to You", pp. 328-334.

Week 1: Course Intro / Review Syllabus

Activities (in class)

  • Course / Assignment Review
  • Writing IS a Craft
  • Mini-Intros
  • 3Ps activity

Readings (Throughout Semester)


Writing Guidelines: Grammar (G), Sentence Construction (SC) & Punctuation (P)

Watch / Listen


  2. When you name your document, add the Version Number - V1.0 - For example, "Shawn_Fisher_Resume_V1.0"
  3. Bring three (3) printed copies to class - Resume
  4. Bring three (3) printed copies of the Job Description too!

Bring to Next Class

  • Transferable Skills document (completed)
  • Original / Current Resume AND Advertised Job in Your Profession / Field - PRINT three (3)COPIES OF EACH DOCUMENT
  1. DO NOT UPDATE / REVISE YOUR RESUME. You will receive feedback in class to help you do that.
  2. The Job Description should be for a role you want to apply for, after graduation
  3. Save a copy of the Job Description (as a PDF - because the ad may not always be available).
  4. You will need to submit the Job Description for Assignment 1

Week 2: Effective Writing for Job Applications I (CAR Stories + Resumes)

Activities (in class)

  • Transferable Skills
  • CAR Stories Make Compelling Reading / Resumes
    • CAR Stories & Feedback (call and response)
  • Resume Review + Job Ad (Remember to bring three (3) copies of each)


  • Alred, Chapter 9, Job Search and Applications - Resumes, pp. 282-300.

Watch / Listen


  1. Aligned to your desired job / Job Description
  2. Based on what we learned / covered in class
  3. Based on your Partner's / Table feedback / suggestions
  4. Name it with your First Name and Last Name and Assignment Name (i.e., Shawn Fisher_Resume Version 2).

Week 3: Effective Writing for Job Applications II (CAR Stories, Research + Cover Letters)

Activities (in class)

  • Learning Review
  • Review Resumes + CAR Stories (DRAFT)
  • Research Job Ad, Company, etc.
  • Cover Letter - aligned to Job Description & Industry
    • (Comment.gif: Professor to provide Cover Letter example / template)


  • Alred, Chapter 9, Job Search and Applications - Application Cover Letters, pp. 260-272.
  • Application and Cover Letters, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


  • Weekly Discussions
  • Revise Cover Letter - with feedback received
  • Assignment 1 - Resume, Cover Letter & Job Ad DUE Next Class (Week 4)

Week 4: Labor Themes - Changing Nature of Work & Universal Basic Income

Activities (in-class)

  • Resume & Cover Letter Review - last minute changes
  • Bullets (bullet points) & Big Words - Kickstart Your Writing!
  • Peer GROUP Worksheet


Watch / Listen

  1. Andrew McAfee: What will future jobs look like? TED 2013 (14:21) -
  2. Erik Brynjolfsson: The key to growth? Race with the machines TED 2013 (11:53) -
  3. Wingham Rowan: A new kind of job market TED Salon 2012 (12:13) -

Universal Basic Income

The Importance of Unions & the Union Movement (according to Bernie Sanders)


Week 5: Labor Themes: Labor Standards, Risks & Research - Guest Speaker: Prof. Naomi Williams

Activities (in-class)

  • Feedback - Assignment 1 - Cover Letter & Resume & Job Ad Assignment
  • Review Week 4 Audio / Video Content
  • Guest speaker content (SMLR Prof. Naomi Williams)
  • Writing Practice (in-class)


Watch / Listen

Labor Readings & Resources

Labor law, standards, regulations - for employment information, unemployment numbers, and updated legal information

  1. US Department of Labor -
  2. New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development -

Historical overviews:

  • Philip Dray, There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America
  • Priscilla Murolo & A. B. Chitty, From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend

Economic & Labor Policy & Implications:

  • Economic Policy Institute, - good source for ideas on how to think about projects’ broader implications
  • New Labor Forum – - A labor journal of the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies that deals with new research and debates on working-class issues

Watch / Listen


Week 6: Sentence Construction; Grammar & Labor Themes: Gig Economy; Temp Work, Automation & Anti-Unionism

Activities (in-class)

  • Review Assignments remaining and due dates
  • Sentence Construction, Punctuation
  • Guest Speaker - Heads-Up / Recap
  • Memo Assignment / Template, Due Date
    • Memo Template Example - Peer GROUP Review


  • Write Context / Organization Type, Products / Services - Name of Company, What is Changing / Proposed / For Whom? Why? When? How?
  • Write 3-5 bullet points for Each Group BELOW
    • Employees / Labour; Customers; Suppliers; Investors; Government/Regulatory; Community; Other Impacts
  1. Who is affected? How? Where? Why?
  2. Who is responsible? What will you be asking of him / her to help you make decisions
  3. What is their likely response / challenges / resistance / motivations
  • (Comment.gif: You Can and Should show PROs & CONs in a bulleted list (i.e., Make a heading for PROs, and add the corresponding bullet points below; then make a heading for CONs, and do the same. See the example below:)


  • Faster call handling after hours


  • Impersonal service that might cause the organization to lose customers.


  • Alred, Memos, pp. 99-102
  • Alred, Chapter 11 - Grammar
    • "Dangling Modifiers, p. 349
    • "Person", p. 360
    • "Sentence Construction to Sentence Fragments", pp. 370-377
    • "Tense, Verbs and Active Voice", pp. 377-385
  • Alred, Chapter 12 - Punctuation and Mechanics, pp. 388-423

Changing Nature of Work

Questions to Consider

  1. What impact will automation have on work?
  2. What are possible scenarios for employment growth?
  3. Will there be enough work in the future?
  4. What will automation mean for skills and wages?
  5. How will automation affect Labor and Employment Relations?



  • Re-Read Articles provided by Prof. Naomi Williams in class
  • Pay attention to Simon Chandler's article on LinkedIn: Artificial Intelligence Has Become A Tool for Classifying and Ranking People.
  • Write and Submit MEMO (Draft / Version 1) - 3-5 Bullet Points for each Stakeholder Group on the Template: Employees / Labour; Customers; Suppliers; Investors; Government / Regulatory; Community; Other Impacts
    • Show PROS / Positives & CONS / Negatives
    • Bring three (3) copies to class - one for you, classmate, one for instructor
  • Weekly Discussions

Week 7 - AI and Automation in the Workplace

Activities (in-class)

1. Follow up on Prof. Naomi Williams talk and articles shared in class and on Canvas:

  • List out your skills and/or attributes that make you valuable to your employer. Then write a 3 paragraph email asking for a raise.
  • Focus on using action verbs.
  • Short, direct sentences (i.e., 10 words or less).
  • Start with a strong topic sentence. (You can sum up your overall value in one, good, opening sentence!)
  • Exchange papers and give each others tips on improving your pitch.

2. Peer GROUP Review (Memo) - Using Simon Chandler's article on LinkedIn - "Artificial Intelligence Has Become A Tool for Classifying and Ranking People".

  • Write two (2) short paragraphs - for Each Stakeholder Group (based on your the strongest bullet points - PRO & CON) for: Employees/Labour; Customers; Suppliers; Investors; Government/Regulatory; Community; Other Impacts
    • Focus on using action verbs.
    • Short, direct sentences (i.e., 10 words or less)
  • Exchange papers and give each others tips on improving your paragraphs




  • Write and Submit MEMO (Draft / Versions 2 + 3)
  1. Arrange the five (5) Bullet Points into a logical sequence and write concisely including all of the points in a single paragraph. 1 paragraph per Stakeholder group: Employees / Labor; Customers; Suppliers; Investors; Government / Regulatory; Community; Other Impacts
  2. PRINT THREE (3) COPIES OF YOUR ASSIGNMENT - AND BRING TO NEXT CLASS. Make sure your first name, last name, phone number and Rutgers email address are at the top of the document.

Week 8: Empathy for Stakeholders & Assignment Review

  • Assignment Review

Activities (in-class)

  • Peer Group Review
  • TBD


  • Alred, Chapter 4 - Progress and Activity Reports, - p. 117-119
  • Alred, Chapter 4 - Proposals to Quotation Marks - p. 120-136
  • Alred, Chapter 10 - Style and Clarity
    • "Business Writing to Loaded Arguments", pp. 306-319;
    • Tone to You", pp. 328-334.

Watch / Listen

Two (2) Kinds of Empathy

Two (2) Kinds of Empathy

  • Curiosity Conversations, by Brian Glazer, The Curious Mind

Business / Labor Applications - Talk to People & Listen for the Answers


  • Revise Memo DRAFT
  • Identify two (2) people you can speak with - either by videoconference / in-person
    • Let the person know that you are a Rutgers student AND have an upcoming assignment whereby you will want to understand how technology is affecting their work - from (1) Manager perspective; OR (2) an Employee Perspective

Week 9: Primary & Secondary Research & Discovery Interviews

  1. Primary Research - Interviewing (1-1)
  2. Secondary / Literature Research (Library, Internet)
  3. Discovery Interviews

Activities (in-class)

  • Read Sara Ashley Article focusing on pros and cons (bullet points) about:
    • Company Executive / Leader
    • Employee / Labor Leader


Watch / Listen

  • TBD


  • (Comment.gif: FOR EACH ASSIGNMENT DRAFT - PRINT THREE (3) COPIES & BRING TO CLASS. Make sure your first name, last name, phone number and Rutgers email address are at the top of the document.)

Week 10: Assignment Review & Peer / Instructor Feedback


  • (Comment.gif: FOR EACH ASSIGNMENT DRAFT - THREE (3) COPIES & BRING TO CLASS. Make sure your first name, last name, phone number and Rutgers email address are at the top of the document.)

Week 11: Assignment Review & Peer / Instructor Feedback


  • (Comment.gif: FOR EACH ASSIGNMENT DRAFT - PRINT THREE (3) COPIES & BRING TO CLASS. Make sure your first name, last name, phone number and Rutgers email address are at the top of the document.)

Week 12: Assignment Review & Peer / Instructor Feedback


  • (Comment.gif: FOR EACH ASSIGNMENT DRAFT - PRINT THREE (3) COPIES & BRING TO CLASS. Make sure your first name, last name, phone number and Rutgers email address are at the top of the document.) Submit Briefing Note DRAFT 2

Week 13: Review Assignment (DRAFT) + Course / Instructor Evaluation

Activities (in-class)

  • Review Assignment - Final Revisions BEFORE Submitting Final Assignment
  • SIRS


  • Weekly Discussions - Course Learnings & Takeaways - (400-500 words)
  • Conduct a full review and copy edit of your Assignment.
    • Get someone else to proofread it.
    • Excellent grammar makes a big difference to the success of your proposal and your grade.

Remember: Writing Guidelines: Grammar (G), Sentence Construction (SC) & Punctuation (P)

  • Clarity of Thinking
    • No stream of consciousness, rambling, lack of specificity / details
  • Short Sentences
    • No run-on sentences
  • Grammar, Wordiness, Better Writing Construction
  1. Alignment between Cover Letter & Resume
    1. Extraneous / Strikethrough
  2. Redundant Words / Phrases
  3. Watch Verb Tenses
  4. Judgment / Claims in Writing - should, could, would
  5. Active vs. Passive Sentences
  • Watch for Typos, Big Words (don't use them!)