For Immediate Release


Study Shows Unions Save Academy

Universities shift to voiceless casual teachers,
Unions preserve integrity of education

December 12, 2000: A new study, released today by the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions (CGEU), describes the crisis infecting today's universities, and explains why unions are the solution. The report, "Casual Nation," analyzes "casualization," or use of temporary low-paid labor:


      • The percent of part-time faculty has grown from 22% in 1970 to 41% in 1995.
      • Universities award more new PhDs than they hire each year -- one third more in 1995.
      • Half of all college teachers now work for inadequate pay and have little or no benefits or institutional voice.
      • Graduate teachers provide 18 percent of all teaching in institutions of higher education.
      • While women and minorities comprise 40 percent of recent PhDs, they make up 58 percent of temporary faculty and only 30 percent of tenure or tenure-track faculty. Casualization is re-segregating universities.

Educators and education are harmed by these trends. More and more academics have no voice over the conditions of their employment and without such a voice the quality of education cannot be protected. "Graduate employees are standing up for themselves across the country," said Jon Curtiss, an organizer with the AFT Michigan Federation of Teachers. "They want health benefits, regular pay increases and a voice on the job; they want the power that comes with union representation."

The international movement to unionize university teachers is a direct and decisive response to these trends. Unionization gives graduate and other teachers a voice so they can preserve their livelihood and the quality of their teaching. The CGEU is made up of the 27 graduate student unions on 63 campuses that have won recognition in the United States and another 20 unions in Canada. It also includes dozens of additional unions that are working toward recognition. "Over 30 years of a recognized union at Madison gives us the experience to know that a union is essential to graduate student training and teaching undergraduates," says Kevin Wehr, University of Madison-Wisconsin Sociology Teaching Assistant, Teaching Assistants' Association, AFL-CIO, AFT local 3220. "Despite many attempts to destroy the union, we have successfully maintained decent pay and benefits for all teachers and protected the rights of international students."

Since November 2000, there have been three substantial new graduate assistant union victories: Two new unions were recognized, at University of Massachusetts, Boston and University of Washington; and the National Labor Relations Board certified the country's first graduate assistant union at a private university, New York University. Lisa Jessup, Lead Organizer of GSOC-UAW at NYU remarked, "Graduate teachers at universities are employees. Public universities have known that for years. Now the NLRB is telling private universities that they should recognize that we, too, have the right to form unions."

Following the historic NLRB's unanimous decision giving union rights to graduate teachers at private universities, an already fast- growing national grassroots movement in the academy and society at large has been accelerated. "All over this continent, scholars are joining together to ensure that corporate values don't override educational values," says J.T. Way, chair of Yale University's Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO), which for ten years has battled a recalcitrant administration for union recognition. "Organizing graduate teachers and other casual academic workers is the first step in restoring academic freedom and independent research."

The full text of the report can be downloaded here (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

Supporting Documentation

"Casual Nation" is part of a national effort to examine the crisis caused by casualization and ensure academics the right to organize. Recent relevant press includes:

On November 22, 2000, the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW), a group of 25 academic societies in the humanities and social sciences, found that full-time faculty comprised only half of its survey population, and that casual academic workers suffered from "second-class status." According to Julia Haig Gaisser, Professor of Humanities at Bryn Mawr College and President of the American Philological Association (Classics), "The present practice jeopardizes the next generation of teachers and scholars. It also shortchanges undergraduates, especially in the first two years, since often the faculty with whom they have the greatest contact are both transient and without a place or voice in the institution." The summary of data from surveys by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce can be accessed on the AHA website at http://www.theaha.org/caw. A complete list of the members of the Coalition on the Academic Workforce is available upon request. For more information, contact Arnita A. Jones or Robert Townsend at the American Historical Association, (202) 544-2422.

In a 217-page report released last August, Human Rights Watch found that routine violations of workers' basic rights and inconsistent and weak enforcement of labor laws have "stacked the deck" against U.S. workers. "Worker's basic rights are routinely violated in the United States because U.S. labor law is so feebly enforced and so filled with loopholes," said a press release from Human Rights Watch. The report is available at http://www.hwr.org/reports/2000/uslabor

In November, the group Scholars, Actors and Writers for Social Justice (SAWSJ) released a "University Code of Conduct" calling on educational institutions to respect freedom of association, provide living wages to all workers and stop discrimination and harassment of workers. The code of conduct states: "Colleges and universities are threatened today by the growing sway of corporate values over university life. We see evidence of this influence in curricular decisions, research priorities, the declining role of faculty, and most visibly in the sphere of employment relations. University employees are often denied elementary democratic rights of free speech, economic security, and equal opportunity. No educational institution can fulfill its mission unless these rights are protected. To that end, every educational institution should become a "fair labor practice employer." The complete text of the code can be found on page 62 of the Fall / Winter edition of New Labor Forum.

Casual Nation follows up on the report "Casual in Blue" produced by the GESO, the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, which documented that 70% of contact hours at Yale University were performed by graduate teachers and adjunct professors. A complete text of "Casual in Blue" can be found at www.geso.org