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PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 22, No. 15, March 6, 2003

Photo by Bill Wiegand
Suzi Millas is the assistant to the director in the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations

Spinning her wheels is just fine with Suzi Millas, assistant to the director in the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations. An avid cyclist, Millas rides 10 to 20 miles a week ("in decent weather") and formerly competed in amateur off-road and downhill cycling competitions. Millas earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology and a master of science of degree in public health policy and administration from Illinois and became a full-time employee in October 2000.

Tell me about your job.
Right now my main priority has been working on publications. We have an annual research volume;
a bi-annual magazine, Perspectives on Work;
a membership directory, an annual proceedings
and a quarterly newsletter.

I’m also the national chapter liaison for our 50-plus Industrial Relations Research Association chapters around the country. We have 3,000 to 4,000 members (individuals and organizations).

We hold an annual conference in January and publish the papers that are presented. Planning the meeting is a huge undertaking. This year it was held in Washington, D.C.; next year it will be in San Diego.

I post the program information on the Web and keep it updated for the printed program. I also help coordinate the awards we give out, recruit people to judge the awards and the refereed paper and poster competitions.

I do a lot of Web work – maintaining our Web site and helping build sites for our chapters.

What is the IRRA and what are its goals?
We are a scholarly research association in the field of labor, employment and the workplace. Our main goal is to promote research and the full discussion and exchange of ideas between our many constituencies — academics, labor management neutral and the public. Our board is composed of people from each of these groups.

When people hear ‘industrial relations’ they think ‘manufacturing,’ but it’s not just factories; it’s every kind of workplace that we explore and issues like work and family, human rights in the workplace and new directions in human resource management.

What are some of the main concerns among industrial relations people right now?
Dealing with unionization and union representation versus management concerns. Hands down that is our biggest issue. It’s a big issue on this campus too. I’m a member of the Academic Professionals Association, and I think the rights of workers and concerns of management both are important.

The world of work after Sept. 11 and how that event impacted people has also generated a lot of concerns. People are afraid and don’t want to work in major metropolitan areas anymore.

Job security, Social Security and the Internet-driven workplace also are big issues.
I administer four listserves and that’s a way [to increase] communication between members as well as nonmembers. We send out a feature called the IRRA News, and it includes topics such as labor statistics, book reviews, information about collegiate industrial relations programs, you name it. The director and I have noticed that a lot of times we’ll see a story in there and the next day it’s in the news. So that’s kind of cool.

As a student, I took classes in the institute, and I never thought I would be working here. ILIR is a wonderful institution and provides a great deal of support to the association. Industrial relations is an interesting field, and I think about going back and getting another degree sometimes, but it’s a lot of work!

What’s the most challenging part of what you do?
Just trying to stay on top of everything. The association is really dynamic. We have so many different people, programs and publications and meetings, it’s a struggle to keep everything current and be cutting-edge.

Coordinating all our board members is a challenge, but it’s wonderful because they’re amazing people. For example, our board members include representatives of the AFL-CIO, the Communications Workers of America, various universities, the National Labor Relations Board, General Motors and General Electric. They’re all brilliant minds but reaching consensus, sometimes that’s the biggest challenge. But the biggest challenge is always the best part to me.

What do you do in your spare time?
I do a bit of free-lance Web work for my mother-in-law, who owns a business, and for some of our members.

I work with my husband sometimes doing home improvement. We’ve done a ton of remodeling on our house and have built walls and patios for other people. We like to do landscaping together. Putting up the gutters wasn’t fun, though.

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On the job: Suzi Millas

By Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; slforres@illinois.edu

 




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