As budget cuts in various states have, once again, been used as a rationale for more reliance on adjunct faculty; austerity measures such as denials of raises and contract renewals; and even program cuts and threats of more of the same, academic labour unions have also become more visible and been forced to reassess their strategies, even considering more extreme measures such as work stoppages. This last can be interpreted as both a final, drastic step, resorted to because nothing else has worked, but also an implicit assertion of the power of faculty, incl. adjuncts: after all, without them, much of the essential work of academic institutions can’t be carried out, and they are far more difficult to replace than other workers.
Faculty unions in New York and California, among other places, are holding strike-authorisation votes, in the hope that even the prospect of a strike will be enough for at least some gains, like a new contract, to be made. If these strikes occur, even if only in a few places, the outcome will be far-reaching and worth examining at next year’s conference, when some of the concrete consequences will be more apparent.
More generally, however, where do various unionising and related efforts leave us? How much impact will actions at major university systems, such as in New York and California, have on other universities and systems? Will all such efforts be defeated or made irrelevant by budgetary crises, real or manufactured, or can we overcome institutional/ administrative or public resistance and lack of support? How (to what extent) are anti-union efforts a response to the increased access to higher education by previously underrepresented groups such as women and persons of colour? Papers addressing these questions are welcome.
Please contact me at the above email with any questions; use the URL above to submit an abstract.
Dr. Maria L. Plochocki