Tuesday, March 4, 2014

“The fight for contingent faculty parallels the struggles of other contingent workers”

 “In North America, a significant proportion of work in higher education is performed by contingent faculty. This is the same phenomenon affecting employment in other sectors in health care, in communications, and in business. In the name of increased corporatization, scarce resources, competition between institutions and a flexible labor market, our working conditions have degenerated. This is why, across North America, we have chosen union and collective action. What was true for workers in the 19th century is true for contract faculty in the 21st century: we are stronger together!

“We, contingent faculty from across North America… are committed to our movement's common struggle to end the exploitation generated by contingency. We seek the recognition of our contribution to quality education and to improve our working conditions. We pledge to continue the struggle, to help one another and to provide support and solidarity from Mexico to Rimouski, from Vancouver to Boston.”

“…The Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL) world view recognizes that the fight for contingent faculty parallels the struggles of other contingent workers; many members also participate in The North American Alliance for Fair Employment (NAFFE), a broader network concerned about the growth of contingent work in general. COCAL sees the strength and freedom of faculty as a key to maintaining accessible, quality higher education and, ultimately, free inquiry for a democratic society…

“COCAL is a biennial conference and a network of North American activists working to improve higher education through the collective achievement of job reliability, livable wages, academic freedom, and time and resources for academic research and professional development for contingent academic laborers. 

“COCAL is not affiliated with any single labor union and promotes grassroots contingent faculty organizing through events like Campus Equity Week. To achieve its aims, COCAL dedicates itself to alerting the broader community about the trends that undermine the tenets of higher education by staging media events, improving legislation concerning higher education and so-called accountability efforts, and identifying colleagues at institutions and assisting them in forming collective bargaining units and negotiating strong contracts. 

“…In December 1996, the first National Congress of Adjunct, Part-time, Graduate Teaching Assistants, and Non-Tenure Track Faculty Conference was held in Washington, D.C. This conference ran concurrent with the Modern Language Association (MLA) conference in D.C. that year, at which the Graduate Student Caucus held a panel (moderated by Eric Marshall) on ‘Making the MLA More Proactive’ in part-time faculty issues. Both the MLA panel and the National Congress conference were well-attended and very successful, attracting people from all over the country… 

“[At this time], the group renamed itself ‘The Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor,’ and a steering committee was formed. It was decided that the 3rd Annual conference would be held the following year in Boston in April 1999. This conference was hosted by activists from the University of Massachusetts, Boston (UMB) Part-time Faculty Committee of the Faculty-Staff Union (FSU), an affiliate of the National Education Association. 

“Building on earlier success from 1986, and with state budget surpluses emerging out of the recession of the early seventies, the Part-time Faculty Committee spurred FSU to vigorous support of part-time faculty issues. They achieved major gains in June 1998, including the reclassification of PT faculty teach two sections as salaried half-time employees with full medical, dental, and retirement benefits, and a floor of $4000.00/course…

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