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Daniel Cornfield

Professor of Sociology

Expert in the American labor movement, the creative class, and work and occupation issues generally.


Dan Cornfield is Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and American Studies at Vanderbilt University, Editor-in-Chief of Work and Occupations, and a Fellow of the Labor and Employment Relations Association. His work on artist careers, labor, civil rights, and immigration addresses the formation of inclusive and expressive occupational communities and their impact on cultural pluralism. During his Fellowship year at the Curb Center, Cornfield and a team of sociology graduate students will examine the role of local arts agencies in promoting cultural equity and community engagement in the arts in the U.S. His Beyond the Beat: Musicians Building Community in Nashville (Princeton University Press) addresses how indie musicians strengthen their inclusive and diversifying peer community of artists in the contemporary era of the gig economy and heightened identity politics, based on his in-depth interviews with 75 Nashville popular-music musicians. Dan’s work has been widely published in social science journals, including the American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, and the ILR Review. Among his books are Becoming a Mighty Voice (Russell Sage Foundation) and Worlds of Work (Springer), co-edited with Randy Hodson. He has chaired the Metropolitan Nashville Human Relations Commission, advised WNPT (Nashville public television) in the production of its Emmy Award-winning documentary series on Nashville immigrants “Next Door Neighbors,” and presently advises the Future of Music Coalition on its artist revenue streams project and the National Endowment of the Arts on its research lab initiative, “The Arts, Creativity, Cognition and Learning.” Cornfield earned his BA (1974), MA (1977), and PhD (1980) all in sociology from the University of Chicago.

Media Appearances

  • Gen Z battles to bring back unions, one Starbucks at a time

    Many Republican states have since brought in "right to work" laws that weaken unions, while increasingly large corporations use their "vast resources" to quell organising efforts, says Dan Cornfield, an expert in unionism at Vanderbilt University.

    September 16th, 2021

  • Why the Teamsters union drive at Amazon could succeed where Bessemer faltered

    “It makes sense that this union in particular, which happens to be a very large one, would want to organize Amazon warehouses," says Dan Cornfield, a professor and labor sociologist at Vanderbilt University. "It’s a very powerful union in the economic sector in which Amazon operates."

    June 25th, 2021

  • Unionizing Amazon warehouses was never going to be easy

    “It’s a blow to the labor movement, but it’s part of a pattern that’s been going on in corporate America for a long time,” says Professor Dan Cornfield, a labor sociologist at Vanderbilt University.

    April 10th, 2021

  • Tensions and tempers rise on the picket lines as General Motors strike enters day three

    “For many workers, the pay gap between Barra and the workers symbolizes the actual gap between the haves’ and the have nots’ in the U.S. and the disappearance of many career ladders that have made the American dream an increasingly unattainable dream for millions of working families,” Vanderbilt University sociology professor Dan Cornfield, who studies the plight of U.S. workers in the changing economy, wrote in response to questions from NBC News.

    September 18th, 2019

  • GM strike update

    The strike comes at a time when other worker movements have gained momentum in the past year and a half, Dan Cornfield, a labor expert and professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University, told Morning Shift. “That usually happens when the economy improves and workers feel more secure about making demands and not fearing unemployment so much.”

    September 17th, 2019

  • Tennessee Workers Reject Union At Volkswagen Plant — Again

    "It's not unusual for governors and U.S. Senators to vociferously oppose unions in private companies," Daniel Cornfield, a labor expert at Vanderbilt University, told NPR. "What is unusual is this governor went inside the plant and directly talked to the workers."

    June 15th, 2019

  • Auto workers' union rolls the dice at Nissan's Mississippi plant

    “If the union wins, it will encourage other in the South to unionize,” Vanderbilt University labor analyst Daniel Cornfield said. “If the company wins, it will make it more difficult for the UAW to organize elsewhere in the South.”

    August 2nd, 2017

  • UAW, Nissan pressing high-stakes campaign for worker votes

    "It is often very tense," said Vanderbilt University sociologist Dan Cornfield, who has studied unions. "It's tense because both sides feel a lot is riding on it for them."

    July 21st, 2017

  • U.A.W. Says Nissan Workers Seek a Union Vote in Mississippi

    “Some of the issues I gather in the Nissan plant are similar to the issues in Chattanooga and elsewhere,” said Daniel Cornfield, a labor expert at Vanderbilt University. “But in the case of Mississippi, they are being framed in terms of respect and disrespect for workers, and linking that to a civil rights orientation.”

    July 11th, 2017

  • Alabama Vote Is Rare Win in the South for the U.A.W.

    When the results of a vote to join the United Automobile Workers union was announced late Wednesday at the Commercial Vehicle Group (C.V.G.) in Piedmont, Ala., the “hollering and whooping” echoed throughout the plant, said Alan Amos, a welder there.

    September 24th, 2015


Ph.D., University of Chicago

M.A., University of Chicago

B.A., University of Chicago


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