Higher education unions and organizations across the nation are launching a joint effort this week to transform public colleges and universities.
The coalition, known as Higher Ed Labor United (HELU), was founded in July and brought together 75 unions and organizations that represent 450,000 higher education workers, including student workers, postdocs, staff, and adjunct, contingent, and tenured faculty.
The new initiative is aimed at supporting legislation currently under consideration in Congress with these goals in mind: (1) nationwide action for federal government intervention, (2) nationwide action to realign our campuses, and (3) unified national movement.
“We have multiple crises that kind of converged on us and we can’t really wait,” Chris Cox, CFA Associate Vice President, Racial and Social Justice, North said at a recent virtual event hosted by Rutgers AAUP-AFT. “I don’t think we can collectively afford to wait any longer for us to really seek the kind of justice in our working conditions and learning conditions that we really need nationwide.
HELU, which includes CFA member leaders like Cox and Nicola Walters, CFA Membership and Organizing Committee Chair, in leadership roles, is supporting the passage of College for All Act, sponsored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). The bill would eliminate tuition and fees at public college and universities for families making less than $125,000 annually.
The group also wants to create a pipeline to tenure-track and full-time jobs for contingent faculty and staff, increase federal and state funding for higher education that also eliminates students’ cost of attending college, provide job security and promotion for non-instructional staff, create a supermajority tenure-track teaching and full-time instructional workforce, categorize undergraduate and graduate student workers as campus employees, and pay equity and regular raises for all campus workers.
The group is also supporting federal legislation that would cancel student debt, address reparations for historically and ongoing systemic oppressions and inequities (this includes changes to campus policing) and is addressing climate change through divestment in fossil fuels and investing in green construction, renewable energy, and ending use of single-use plastics.