Spotlight On: Rachel Aleks

February 6, 2020 by CIRHR Communications

Graduated: 2014 
ThesisUnion Strategies and Potential Targets for New-Member Organizing in the United States 
Research areas: unionized HR strategy, gender diversity 
NowAssistant Professor, Management, Odette School of Business, University of Windsor 

Dr. Rachel Aleks cites Canada's robust union environment – with an estimated 776 unions representing almost five million Canadians – as what got her interested in labour relations. In an alumni profile for U of T News, she recalls how, having come from the United States for her undergraduate studies at McGill University, “I was in a new country with different laws and, more importantly, with an organized and mobilized workforce. I regularly witnessed labour strikes and that definitely shaped my scholarly interests.” 

After graduating, she worked for a labour union in the U.S. but decided to return to Canada to complete her PhD at the CIRHR.  

During my time at U of T, I was involved in organizing with CUPE Local 3902, the union that represents graduate teaching assistants. This experience affected my research, some of which looks at how to organize professionals and how professional worker organizing differs from organizing non-professional workers. My involvement with CUPE 3902 helped me frame research questions to focus on. 

U of T News 


Aleks’ research interests are around organizing strategies used by labor unions to build power and increase membership levels among both low-wage workers and professionals. Aleks is also interested in gender diversity within unions and how internal union policies and practices affect staff and member relations as well as organizational outcomes, such as organizing success.  

Publications and presentations:

  • Aleks, R. (2019). What Professionals Want: Union and Employer Tactics in Representation Elections of Professional Workers. ILR Review, 72(3), 693–717. "" 
  • Aleks, R. (2017, June). Overview of professional unions and their role in the American labor movement.  Labor and Employment Relations Association, 69th Annual meeting, Anaheim. 
  • Aleks, R. (2016, May). Generational differences in youth attitudes towards long-term employment and labor unions.  Labor and Employment Relations Association, 68th Annual meeting, Minneapolis. 
  • Aleks, R. (2015, May). What professionals want: Union/employer characteristics in certification elections of professional workers.  Labor and Employment Relations Association, 67th Annual meeting, Pittsburgh. 
  • Aleks, R. (2013, June). Union and employer characteristics and organizing tactics in certification elections involving professional workers.  Labor and Employment Relations Association, 65th Annual meeting, St. Louis. 
  • Aleks, R. (2015). Estimating the effect of 'change to win' on Union organizing. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 68 (3), 584-6605,  

During her time at Cornell University as an Assistant Professor, Aleks taught in a maximum-security prison close to Cornell through the Cornell Prison Education Program (CPEP). The work through CPEP has motivated her to look at power and voice within the prison environment. 

“Power and voice are what unionization is all about for people who are outside of prison, but these ideas take a very different form within prison." 

U of T News 


Following the completion of her BComm. at McGill and her time working as a union organizer in the US, Aleks earned both her MIRHR and PhD at the Centre. She joined the faculty at Cornell in 2014 and is now an Assistant Professor of Management at Odette School of Business at the University of Windsor.