UMass Boston hosts International conference on labor organizing in Higher Ed

Professor Sheila Slaughter, of the Institute for Higher Education, University of Georgia set the tone Friday night in her keynote address on the corporatization of higher education. Prof. Slaughter's most recent book, co-authored with gary Rhoades, is Academic Capitalism and the New Economy: Markets, State and Higher Education.

Saturday started off with an international panel including Nanette Cormack, of the Teritary Education Union of New Zealand, Benjamin Thomas, from UNISON, Britain and Europe’s biggest public sector union, and Ed Marsh from the UK's National Union of Students (NUS).  Here we learned that much of what we are experiencing here in the US is also happening in other parts of the globe.

Much of Saturday's agenda consisted of inteactive workshops on the following 4 topics:

• Building Industry Density: Organizing the Unorganized
• Bad Jobs in Higher Ed: Contracting Out, Casual Labor & Privatization
• Your Tax Dollars at Work: All Higher Education is Public
• It's an Industry: Higher Education as an Economic Driver.

Participants, who stayed in their same workshop track throughout the day, learned from each other and strategized how to move forward in today's environment when higher education is increasingly judged by in  relation to the bottom line rather than to the promotion of learning. The approximately 150 conference participants represented workers in all parts of the higher education industry from faculty to janitors.

The final speaker, Joshua Humphreys, Director of the Center for Social Philanthropy at the Tellus Institute, suggested a way forward through the concept of developing a new social contract for higher education.