Occasionally we supplement discussion about topics in the liberal arts and higher education with a short list of books and other materials that enliven our understanding.
In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Barry Eidlin suggests that the unionization of academic workers not only marks a trend within higher education, but has the potential to shift the tendencies of the national labor movement. Academic workers in United Auto Workers (UAW) locals have played an important role in the campaign for direct elections within the national union, a change that would be, according to Eidlin, “the most far-reaching structural reform in the UAW’s history.” (The referendum passed shortly after Eidlin’s article was published.) Eidlin highlights the formation of coalitions within the union through the various reform caucuses working on the “one member, one vote” campaign and thus points to the connection between higher education workers and those in other industries.
Also, since November 3, members of UAW Local 2110, a unit of 3,000 graduate workers at Columbia University, have been on strike. Writing in the Chronicle about their longstanding effort to secure a contract, Mia Florin-Sefton and Ben Hulett assert, “our strike is not a sideshow; it’s a response to damaging, large-scale trends in higher education, including the rise of a consumer model of education, the casualization of academic labor, widespread student debt, and the financialization of university assets.” The struggle at Columbia is reflective of wider struggles, particularly in a moment of worker discontent amidst skyrocketing endowment returns and corporate profit rates.
Here is selected reading on the history of the alignment of industrial and academic unions, academic unionism more broadly, and the formation of coalitions between workers in higher education institutions.
- Joe Berry and Helena Worthen, Power Despite Precarity Strategies Forthe Contingent Faculty Movement in Higher Education. (London: Pluto Press, 2021).
- Toni Gilpin, Gary Isaac, Dan Letwin, and Jack McKivigan, On Strike for Respect: The Clerical and Technical Workers’ Strike at Yale University, 1984-85 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995).
- Jaime Acosta Gonzalez and Eli Meyerhoff, “Stained University: Reckoning with Duke’s Nexus of Higher Education and Tobacco Capitalism,” Social Text 39, no. 1 (146) (March 2021): 93–123, https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-8750124.
- Monika Krause, Mary Nolan, Michael Palm, and Andrew Ross, eds., The University against Itself: The NYU Strike and the Future of the Academic Workplace (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008).
- Erik Ludwig, “Closing in on the ‘Plantation’: Coalition Building and the Role of Black Women’s Grievances in Duke University Labor Disputes, 1965-1968,” Feminist Studies 25, no. 1 (1999): 79–94, https://doi.org/10.2307/3216671.
- Donna Murch and Todd Wolfson, “Reclaiming Paul Robeson in the Time of COVID-19: Solidarity and the Coalition of Rutgers Unions,” Academe, Spring 2021, https://www.aaup.org/article/reclaiming-paul-robeson-time-covid-19.
- Blake Slonecker, “The Columbia Coalition: African Americans, New Leftists, and Counterculture at the Columbia University Protest of 1968,” Journal of Social History 41, no. 4 (2008): 967–96, https://www.jstor.org/stable/25096564.
- Hans-Joerg Tiede, University Reform: The Founding of the American Association of University Professors (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015).
- Gabriel Winant, The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2021). [View our conversation with Gabriel Winant.]