Tobias Higbie is professor of history and labor studies at UCLA and the director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Professor Higbie’s research explores the intersection of work, migration, and social movement organizing in the United States. His current research (with Gaspar Rivera-Salgado) focuses on new immigrants and labor unions in Los Angeles and Chicago during the 1970s and 1980s.
His most recent book, Labor’s Mind: a History of Working-Class Intellectual Life, illuminates the world of working-class self-education and labor colleges that seeded the union upsurge of the 1930s and prefigured the rise of university-based labor scholarship. His first book, Indispensable Outcasts: Hobo Workers and Community in the American Midwest, 1880-1930 (winner of two book awards) explores the lives migrant workers and the politics of belonging during an era of industrial and social upheaval.
Higbie led the effort to launch UCLA’s Labor Studies interdepartmental degree program, the first program of its kind at the University of California, and served as the program’s chair from 2019-2022. Before that he was chair of the UCLA Labor and Workplace Studies program from 2014-2019. Before coming the UCLA in 2007, Higbie was an assistant professor in the Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois (2005-2007), and the Director of the Center for Family and Community History at the Newberry Library (2000-2005). As a graduate student, Higbie was part of a large-scale organizing campaign to win bargaining rights for graduate student employees. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Illinois and is a member of the American Federation of Teachers.