“At its best, one of the most creative activities is being involved in a struggle with other people, breaking out of our isolation, seeing our relations with others change, discovering new dimensions in our lives … it [is] a powerful collective experience”.
Silvia Federici, 1984
News broke on the very last day of 2022 that members of the New School’s part-time faculty (PTF) union – ACT-UAW 7902 – had voted to ratify a new five-year contract, following what some are calling the longest adjunct strike in American history (Hamberg, 2022). A ’tentative agreement’ was reached on December 10th, after almost a month of strike action where more than 1,600 PTF members had taken to the picket line. Their existing contract had expired, and there was no sign of a satisfactory renewal. The dispute was multifaceted, but primarily concerned poor pay, uncompensated labour time, general job security and health insurance coverage.
The agreement solidified a historic pay increase (the largest PTF at the New School have ever received), as well as an enhanced offer for paid family leave, improved terms for annualisation, compensation for labor performed outside of the classroom and improvements in health care access (Hamberg, 2022). Whilst there is much to be celebrated in these gains, for the New School community this was a month-long struggle marked with uncertainty, tension, and growing hostility. The disconnect between the university’s administration and its community of faculty and students was made painfully, publicly evident. Observers couldn’t help but call hypocrisy on an institution founded on radical values employing “corporate union-busting tactics … antithetical to [its] progressive heritage” (Hamberg, 2022).
Much can be gleaned from this contained episode: the state of higher education following a period of its incessant marketisation; the power of organised labour to rally against exploitation; the role higher education specifically can play in a wider workers’ movement. This blog post will attempt to place the New School’s recent ACT-UAW 7902 strike in its wider context, that of an (inter)national worker movement, both within the higher education sector and beyond. By doing this, I will elicit some of the unique contributions academics, other university workers and students themselves can offer such a movement.Read More »