22, No. 15, March 6, 2003
by Bill Wiegand
is the assistant to the director in the Institute
of Labor and Industrial Relations
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.
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.
are some of the main concerns among industrial relations people right
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!
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
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.
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.
On the job: Suzi Millas
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; firstname.lastname@example.org