Professor Adom Getachew reflects on the graduate student union movement in this op-ed for Jacobin. She specifically considers how unions could be instrumental in the fight for racial and economic justice on university campuses.
According to a recent report by the American Federation of Teachers, “a disproportionate number of underrepresented faculty members continue to be hired as contingent rather than full-time tenured faculty, which often marginalizes the contributions they could make to their institutions and provides them with grossly inadequate pay and working conditions.” In 2007, about 10 percent of all faculty positions were held by members of minority racial groups, and three-quarters of these were contingent positions. And a majority of contingent faculty are women. Studies also find that black contingent faculty earn less than other racial groups.
In this context, unionization can make a big difference towards achieving racial justice. Debates about the material conditions of academic work and the right to organize and bargain over those conditions is central to ensuring that universities are more inclusive and just.
You can read this op-ed in its entirety here at the Jacobin website.