Inside Higher Ed
July 8th, 2014
In the Ivory Tower, labor organizing is no easy task. Teaching
assistants, who have recently unionized at New York University and the
University of Connecticut, don’t have factory floors where collective
bonds can be readily formed. We’re scattered throughout classrooms
spread over vast campuses, each grading for different professors and
advisers, with different and often incommensurable working conditions.
We don’t stand before an assembly line with parts of metal and plastic –
we work face-to-face with students, who are sometimes apathetic and
bemused by our decision to prolong our schooling, but sometimes
enthusiastic and insightful enough to remind us why we thought a life of
teaching and research could be worthwhile.
When I started graduate school at the University of California at
Santa Cruz, I proudly signed a union card the first day of orientation.
The unprecedented contract agreement
reached this year between the University of California and my union,
United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents graduate teaching
assistants at all UC campuses, reflects our strategy for dealing with