Confronting Race and Other Social Identity Erasures: The Case for Critical Industrial Relations Theory

Tamara L. Lee, Maite Tapia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Despite the salience of racism and other “isms” woven into the fabric of US society, there is a dearth of industrial relations (IR) scholarship that engages critical race and intersectional theory (CRT/I) to deeply understand how structural racism and other social identity-based systems of oppression govern labor and employment systems. The authors call for the incorporation of CRT/I into IR to address the erasure of vital counter-narratives and to expand our empirical cases for labor and employment research. Focusing on leading scholarship on worker organizing, the authors confront white dominance in our research questions, methodologies, and analyses to illustrate how traditional “color-blind” and meritocracy-based IR theories lead to the exclusion of relevant knowledge. In an era of heightened public discourse and worker uprisings in response to deep-rooted systemic inequities, critical industrial relations research is vital to the field’s relevance and its expertise in explaining the nature and consequences of contemporary labor contestations and their impact on the future of the labor movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-662
Number of pages26
JournalILR Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


  • critical race theory
  • industrial relations theory
  • intersectionality
  • social identity
  • worker organizing


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