Organized labor in higher education—representing tenured faculty and part-time staff, graduate students, and other employees—came together last week to participate in the first Higher Education Labor Summit: Building a Movement to Transform American Higher Education.
On Friday night, the people in attendance posted A platform For consideration by all unions participating in the meeting. More than 75 local union members attended the meeting and they represented more than 300,000 academics. The union leader said that those present at the meeting supported the document.
“We envision higher education institutions prioritizing people and common interests, rather than profit and prestige,” the platform’s introduction said. “We envision institutions that can target students and higher education workers in all job categories, based on race, gender, class, sexual orientation, nationality, indigenous people, age, (disability) and immigration status to correct systemic oppression and pursue fairness. We It is envisaged that the agency respects the rights of all workers to organize trade unions and collective bargaining.”
On behalf of the faculty and staff of the State University of New York system, Frederick Kowal, chairman of United University Professions, the largest higher education consortium in the United States, acknowledged that it will be difficult to fight for what the platform requires. But he said that “creative means” are “critical” to success.
He said that if unions only focus on internal issues or marginal changes, they will fail. He said the union needs “a larger scope.”
The keynote of the press conference held immediately after the meeting was to achieve the set goals. There is no mention of political party barriers, such as Republicans in the U.S. Senate or those who control many state legislatures, who have traditionally opposed unions and have been more willing to limit higher education funding in recent decades.
The platform solves some of these challenges.
“For decades, our national system and its institutions, working conditions, and learning environment have been compromised by public divestment, financialization, corporatization, and the transition to debt financing,” the platform said. “Insufficient funding for higher education.”
“Most teachers (at least 70%) are part-time or temporarily appointed. Their instability poses a threat to job stability, educational participation with students, long-term student outcomes, and academic freedom.”
The platform calls for four “commitments” to solve these problems:
- Federal intervention. Specifically, “the right to provide students, workers, and communities with high-quality, debt-free, universally accessible, and guaranteed higher education, the purpose of which is to increase the chances and retention rate of those who have been historically or currently excluded.” In addition. , Federal law “guarantees the right of all higher education workers to organize trade unions and collective bargaining in each state.”
- A nationwide “realignment of our campus” movement.Some of the measures called for are the “collaborative shared governance” of higher education; “alignment[ing] Campus and state budgets with educational priorities” and “reducing[ing] The average ratio of senior management salaries to faculty salaries has reached a fair standard. “In addition,” that is, to improve[ing] Provide direct working conditions for all temporary faculty and staff through employment standards including job security, pay equity, medical care and retirement benefits. “
- A national campaign organized for the first two commitments.A key part of the event includes support National University Act, The proposed legislation will make most public colleges and universities free of tuition and reduce student debt, and “organize[ing] Win federal legislation and attach labor provisions to existing federal funding mechanisms (such as the National Humanities Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Pell Grants, etc.) to ensure that organizations respect workers’ rights to form unions and sincerely Collective bargaining. “
- Unite. “We are committed to working together and uniting as one to fight in our communities and across the country and its territories as a truly coordinated higher education labor movement to change our system and our lives.”