Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Will unionization at universities change the United Auto Workers?

 There is an increasing presence of labor unions at American universities, which may well bring big changes to those universities. Here is an article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed suggesting that it may also bring big changes to some labor unions.

A New Force in American Labor: Academe--One in five members of the United Automobile Workers is in higher education.By Barry Eidlin, NOVEMBER 29, 2021

"But why would a philosophy major at UC Berkeley join a campaign to change how an auto-worker union chooses its leadership? As a tutor in the University of California system, Huang is a member of UAW Local 2865 — along with other academic workers like graduate-student instructors and “readers,” students hired to grade assignments. With 19,000 members, Local 2865 is now the second-largest local in the entire union.

"Organizing those members has been challenging. “It’s hard enough to get them to recognize themselves as workers,” explained Keith Brower Brown, a Ph.D. candidate in the UC Berkeley geography department. “It’s a whole other step to get them to embrace that they’re a part of this international union, and they have a stake in changing the leadership of the union.” To help colleagues take that step, Cyn Huang tries to connect the referendum to familiar issues: “You explain how the ability to elect top leadership could lead to better contracts, greater accountability, new organizing. It makes sense to people. Once they hear that, it’s pretty intuitive.”

"In recent decades, academic workers like Huang and Brown have become an increasingly large part of the UAW. This group — which includes undergraduate tutors, graduate-student teachers and researchers, postdoctoral fellows, and adjunct instructors — now constitutes roughly one-fifth of the UAW’s active membership."


The UAW has organized student workers at Harvard, and just reached an agreement on a new contract. Some details are here: 

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