IRLE Director

Tobias Higbie

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 focuses on new immigrants and labor unions in Los Angeles and Chicago during the 1970s and 1980s.

Professor Higbie’s most recent work (with Gaspar Rivera Salgado) explores the transformation of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) in Los Angeles into an advocate for immigrant rights during the 1970s and 1980s. He is also the author of two books. 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 award winning first book, Indispensable Outcasts: Hobo Workers and Community in the American Midwest, 1880-1930 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 a leader in the campaign to win bargaining rights for graduate student employees at the University of Illinois. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Illinois and is a member of the American Federation of Teachers.


B.A., University of Michigan, 1998
M.A., University of Illinois, Urbana-Chapaign, 1993
Ph.D., History, University of Illinois, 2000