CORRESPONDENCES FROM THE UPSURGE
A5, 94 pages, black and white printing, perfect bound, softcover, 2023
Reports from Struggles in US Higher Education
During July, we will be publishing reports from labour struggles in North American universities. Across the US, university workers are unionizing and taking strike action in unprecedented numbers. Since 2013, over 120 new union branches have won recognition in universities. In 2022, there were 15 academic strikes, the highest number of strikes in academia in at least 20 years, while graduate and undergraduate workers at 20 private academic institutions, representing over 25,000 workers, have won union recognition agreements. The high point of this 2022 wave was the University of California system strike that lasted nearly six weeks and involved 48,000 graduate student workers across 10 campuses. In 2023, this wave has shown no sign of dipping, with graduate workers taking strike at Temple University (Philadelphia), the University of Michigan, and Dartmouth College (New Hampshire), postdocs at the University of Washington, and faculty staff, adjunct lecturers, and graduate workers taking strike at Rutgers University (New Jersey) and Chicago State University.
Clearly, there is a lot to learn from these struggles and they should serve as a source of inspiration for all university workers. But there is also a lot to understand about the concrete problems and difficulties which organisers have faced in these campaigns and the regional and institutional contexts which frame industrial relations in each case.
In this mini-issue, we will be publishing short reports and longer essays from university organisers which give first hand accounts of strikes and organising campaigns. They will focus on the problems and difficulties which workers encountered during campaigns, the organising approaches that were tried out and the tactics that were effective against managers. We have compiled this series to gain a clear and sober picture of this uptick of trade union activity in US campuses - one which fills in blanks of the journalistic coverage which has been our main window into many of these disputes.
There are key differences between the UK and the US in terms of industrial relations systems and the structure of higher education. This is reflected in the contrasting vocabularies that are used in these different labour organising contexts. To help readers not familiar with this terminology, we have provided a non-exhaustive glossary below. There are also significant conjunctural differences. To try to capture these different developments we have also included pieces which reflect on the current moment in UK HE struggles in light of the US upsurge.