Chicago's thousands of graduate workers — increasingly responsible for teaching and research work once performed by faculty — have long been overworked, underpaid, and non-union. This month, that might finally be starting to change. On January 12, nearly 3,000 graduate workers at Northwestern University announced a landslide victory in their union election, winning 93.5% of the vote. This Tuesday, some 3,000 graduate workers at the nearby University of Chicago (UChicago) will also cast ballots, and while UChicago’s election results won’t be tallied until March due to mail-in voting, a majority of workers pledged to vote “yes.” The two universities are the largest employers of graduate workers in Chicago, and union victories at both would reflect a dramatic increase in the area’s academic union density.
Washington - UW students are protesting on campus to demand that the UW Career and Internship Center amend their employer user policy to prohibit companies in the Fossil Fuel industry from recruiting on campus or using the center’s services in any capacity to engage with students. The requested change would deny members of the Fossil Fuel industry a space to recruit students through university networking platforms and career fair events, and also leverage the UW’s agenda-setting power by encouraging similar institutions to follow suit. After several meetings and an attempt to work with the executive director of the UW Career and Internship Center, Briana Randall, student members of the group Institution Climate Action (ICA) were met with strong refusal and told there was “absolutely no way” the career center would adopt such a policy.
At the end of 2022, workers in higher education had their eyes turned toward the weeks-long strikes at the University of California (UC) and The New School. These strikes were among the largest and longest that higher education in the U.S. has ever seen. In California, the striking unions represented about 48,000 workers. While the total number of striking faculty at The New School in New York was much smaller, they represented 87 percent of all teaching faculty at the university, showing the power of what a near-total shutdown of classes can do. These strikes are part of a much bigger trend in the higher education labor movement, which has grown significantly in the last decade, with 144 new private sector faculty and/or graduate student bargaining units forming just between 2013 and 2019, and many more filing for elections in the public sector and in the years since then.
In a landslide victory, Yale’s graduate and professional student workers have voted to unionize, marking a historic first after decades of organizing on campus. According to the National Labor Relations Board’s final tally, 1,860 of 2,039 voters favored forming a collective bargaining unit under Local 33 – UNITE HERE, the graduate student union that has fought for University recognition since 1990. Daily Union Elections, which tracks NLRB records, listed Local 33’s election filing as the second largest in the nation in 2022, with 4,000 graduate and professional workers eligible for union representation. Including challenged ballots that went uncounted due to wide vote margin, about two-thirds of those eligible to vote showed up to the polls or mailed in ballots.
Established more than a century ago, The New School was set up in New York City as a haven for academic freedom and intellectual inquiry. As a private, progressive, research university, it now has five divisions – design, liberal arts, performing arts, social research, and public engagement – and is home to the Platform Cooperativism Consortium. Founded on the principles of community self-governance and social justice, The New School, through a historic strike fueled by the solidarity of its faculty, students, and staff, has secured better pay and health insurance for its part-time faculty. Though the strike has ended, the echoes of its impact continue to reverberate through the halls of the university.
After over two weeks of the largest higher education strike in US history, postdoctoral employees and academic researchers at the University of California have reached a tentative agreement with the UC system. The agreement will lead to significant wage increases, one of the key demands of the striking workers. However, these university employees will continue the strike action in solidarity with the 36,000 graduate student employees whose demands are yet to be met.After over two weeks of the largest higher education strike in US history, postdoctoral employees and academic researchers at the University of California have reached a tentative agreement with the UC system. The agreement will lead to significant wage increases, one of the key demands of the striking workers. However, these university employees will continue the strike action in solidarity with the 36,000 graduate student employees whose demands are yet to be met.
Hundreds of faculty across the system have committed to solidarity with the UAW strike against Unfair Labor Practices by the University of California, recognized by the Public Employment Relations Board. We support the four striking units’ demands for wages adequate to their cost of living, workplace and community safety, disability justice, and other fundamental issues. We recognize that, while education should be the University’s main mission, its core product is accreditation, which means degrees, which means grades. 48,000 academic workers across the UC have been on strike since November 14th, 2022. This includes UAW 5810, UAW2865, and SRU-UAW, representing Postdocs, Academic Researchers, Graduate Student Researchers, Trainees, Fellows, Graduate Student Instructors, Readers, and Tutors.
Tens of thousands of university workers at 150 universities began three days of strikes on Thursday against low pay, intolerable workloads, insecure contacts and pensions cuts. A 48-hour strike by the University and College Union (UCU) members finished Friday, to be followed by a 24-hour strike and day of action on November 30. The strikes are the largest in history of higher education, with workers out at every UK institution. Also striking are support staff, members of the Unison and Unite unions, demanding better pay and conditions. Thursday’s strike was held the same day that up to 50,000 teachers in Scotland walked out in their first national strike since the 1980s against pay restraint by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Scottish National Party devolved government. Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) members rejected—with inflation now running at 14.2 percent—an initial 5 percent pay offer and a revised offer of 6.85 percent for the lowest-paid teachers.
Prominent jazz musician Esperanza E. Spalding, a professor of the practice in Harvard’s Music Department, will depart the University, she announced in an email to department affiliates this week that was obtained by The Crimson. Spalding wrote in the email that she has communicated with Harvard over “many months” about a proposal for a “decolonial education” curriculum she would like to implement as a course or initiative, but said what she aspires “to cultivate and activate in organized learning spaces is not (yet) aligned with Harvard’s priorities.” A five-time Grammy award winner, Spalding joined the Music Department as a part-time professor of the practice in 2017 and has taught courses on songwriting, performance, and musical activism.
New York City - On Wednesday morning, more than 1,300 adjunct faculty at The New School in New York City went on strike. They were joined in solidarity by hundreds of students, full-time faculty, and community supporters. The strike comes after five months of negotiations between the administration and part-time adjunct workers represented by the UAW whose demands include a meaningful increase in wages, no cuts to healthcare, and third-party mediation for harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Students and workers walked the picket line holding signs with slogans like: “Where is my tuition going?” and “New School, old values.” The energy on the picket line was fervent and resolute: picketers stood on benches leading chants and marched into crosswalks with signs asking cars to “honk for workers.”
Since 2015 and the Rhodes Must Fall movement in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as its counterpart student movement at Oxford, University in the UK, the question of the relevance of decolonisation to higher education has become quite prominent across Global North universities. Prior to this, my scholarship examined, inter alia, the effects of incomplete decolonization of African polities, for example, continued education dependency and humanitarian interventionism. However, with the increased focus on decolonisation in UK higher education, I became increasingly frustrated with what I saw as the inadequacy, misunderstandings, and misuses of decolonization as a practice and logic. In response, in Decolonisation and Legal Knowledge, I want to reposition the conversation, by taking a temporally and spatially wider look at the present state of law, its knowledge structure and its relation to colonisation-decolonisation.
Yale will recognize a union election for graduate workers for the first time in history, marking another significant step forward in Local 33’s three decades of organizing efforts. The move, announced on Oct. 28 by University Provost Scott Strobel, came days after Local 33 leaders submitted an election petition to the National Labor Relations Board in Hartford. The petition was backed by authorization cards signed by over 75 percent of the graduate and professional school workers with full time or part-time jobs. In accordance with federal labor law, Yale was granted two weeks to respond to the petition and begin negotiating election parameters with Local 33 and the NLRB. “The petition serves as a formal request for a union election that will be conducted and overseen by the NLRB Regional Director to ensure a fair, inclusive, and democratic election,” Strobel wrote in his statement.
An Italian social scientist and professor, Marco Grasso, has resigned from his post as director of a research unit at Università degli Studi Milano-Bicocca (UNIMIB) in Milan, Italy, over the academic institution’s partnership with oil and gas major Eni, DeSmog can exclusively report. In February this year, UNIMIB and Eni signed a five-year “Joint Research Agreement,” (JRA) in which the university and the fossil fuel company pledged to collaborate on “research projects of common interest” related to the energy transition, according to an Eni press release. In a video promoting the partnership, the company’s CEO Claudio DeScalzi said it would be “crucial for the [energy] transition but also the transformation of Eni.”
Dining workers across the US were hit hard by the pandemic. Layoffs, staff shortages that have put immense pressure on workers (increasing workloads and creating long lines), requests by some schools for faculty and staff to volunteer to assist in dining halls—all of this has created nearly impossible working conditions. For all their sacrifices and best efforts, however, as working conditions have continued to deteriorate, pay and benefits have stagnated. As a result, some workers in this industry are attempting to unionize to improve these conditions and push universities to treat (and compensate) their workers better. For about five years, Ivory Merritt, a mother of three, has worked for dining services contractor Sodexo at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, a public research university that, founded in 1693, is the second oldest institution of higher education in the US.
Spare a thought for new PM Rishi Sunak – or don’t, if you’d prefer. Either way, he’s only hours into the job of prime minster and already facing a new wave of strike action. This time, it’s coming from the University and College Union (UCU). However, we already know Sunak’s views on strikes – and they don’t bode well for workers. UCU members have been striking across 2022 over pay and conditions. As Bywire News previously reported, the industrial action earlier in the year: centred around universities inflicting a 25% real-terms cut to staff pay since 2009. But UCU members have also been striking over their pensions. The pension fund that runs higher education staff’s retirement pots put in a cut of around 35% to members’ final pay-outs. So, tens of thousands of staff at dozens of universities repeatedly walked out in the first part of the year. But there was a catch. Because the UCU initially couldn’t reach the legal threshold for industrial action nationally, members did ballots at individual universities. So the action wasn’t totally coordinated. However, that’s just changed.