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Organizing Graduate Employees: The New Taking Root in The Old

Enku MC Ide Graduate Student Masters Candidate The University of Kentucky

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Submission to ASK Conference Jules Delambre Student Paper Contest September 23, 2011

INTRODUCTION In reviewing the various and often conflicting approaches central to the sociological subfield of social movements, several highly debated questions emerge. Primarily, theorists and researchers continue to grapple with what constitutes a social movement as opposed to other forms of group behavior. Karl Dieter-Opps review of this question sheds light on the current cacophony of responses to this question: whereas some scholars focus primarily on protest activity itself, others highlight beliefs opinions or affinities, and still others believe the answer lies in organizations and networks (For an overview, see Dieter-Opp 2009: 34-36). Of the many questions raised, Dieter-Opp is certain of one thing: unions are not social movement organizations, but rather interest groups. Other scholars disagree with this assessment, but there is a recognition that social movement sociologists have overlooked the labor movement. This is understandable, as the largest unions and union federations have consciously sought to obscure any view of themselves as social movement organizations (SMOs) since the 1950s, rather acting as and presenting themselves as interest groups. (Fantasia and Stepan-Norris 2007: 556) It is less clear why scholars have overlooked other labor movement forces. Dissident locals and extra-union organizations and communities have operated as social movements, and have often consciously thought of themselves as social movements. Much current social movement theory falls under the broad term of new social movement (NSM) theory. Beginning during the heightened wave of global protest activity in the late 1960s, many writers have distanced NSM theory from the labor movement. In our current phase, it may prove fruitful to replant some aspects of labor into the movement literature, using NSM theory where applicable to help describe the trajectory of todays labor struggles both within and outside of the unions.

In contrast to the functions of large and bureaucratic unions, for example, we can find many graduate employee unions clearly engaging in practices outlined throughout the new social movement literature. As such, these SMOs challenge conceptualizations concerning the scope and activities of labor unions while sensitizing us to recognize the abeyant strain of social movement unionism, which has been written about by some scholars but has been generally overlooked by labor scholars and sociologists. Analyzing the labor movement as opposed to simply the large unions may yield important insights into social movement dynamics.

SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORY Historic overview Sociological social movement theory has undergone several shifts from the collective behavior perspective that grounded much of this research and theory prior to the broad upsurges that culminated in 1968. Resource mobilization and rational choice theories, challenging the basic assumptions of collective behavior theories that assumed activists to be socially malintegrated and characterized activism as a form of deviance, gained disciplinary prominence in the 1970s. Since that time, other theories, often under the umbrella of new social movement (NSM) theories have continued to sensitize us as researchers to many previously overlooked aspects of movement dynamics concerning their emergence, recruitment practices, message framing, outcomes, and decline. With the political process approach emerging in 1982 in McAdams Political Process and the Development of the Black Insurgency 1930-1970, sociologists began looking to the social and political opportunities external to social movement organizations (SMOs) as a crucial factor in such movement dynamics.

New social movement theories themselves represented one way in which sociologists sought to distinguish their own subject of interest from the old labor and working class movements that were central to the rise of the New Left of the 1960s. In a dialectical relationship with the rise and fall of the New Left, new identity-based (including feminism, LGBTQ, civil rights) and belief- or value-based (environmentalism, anti-war/peace) movements came to the foreground of sociological research and thinking. We now find ourselves 43 years past the 1968 upsurge. As we look back onto the rise of NSM theory and its cleavage from class-based movements, we have now developed these theoretical approaches sufficiently to question the new vs. old dichotomy (Buechler 1995: 447). Elements thought to be new at the time are now understood to have existed historically through various movements, including the labor movement. In an interesting reversal, many of the new social movements have significantly declined and certain NSM SMOs have themselves become institutionalized, especially through the Democratic Party. This has lead some writers to suggest that the movements springing from the fracturing of the New Left were characterized more by an upswing in activism during a specific crest in a global cycle of protest rather than by a distinct break with previous movement traditions (Buechler 1995: 445, 448). New social movement theories: framing, identity, and the comeback of class With an appreciation of NSM Theories as a new way of sociologically studying social movements rather than reflecting inherent newness to the movements under question, we can turn our attention to the sensitizing insights of NSM theories contributions to the study of social movements. NSM theories have addressed the what and the how of social movements: both the content of what researchers saw as most salient since the long 60s cycle of protest and the processes by which movement actors mobilized.

NSM theories reflected the cultural turn within sociology and other academic disciplines and have focused on how ideas, including identities, grievances, frames, strategies, and goals, are developed and deployed in the service of social movements. Beyond providing new concepts to highlight and problematize previously taken for granted aspects of social movement dynamics, particular NSM theories have helped researchers think through the nature of social movements through looking at the concepts of resistance and democracy. The idea of social movements as resistance movements is particularly clear with reference to Habermas, whose powerful colonization metaphor delineates a distinction between an economic and administrative system which rules by power and money under a systemic logic of commodification and bureaucratization (Habermas 1981: 36; Buechler 1995: 433) and a lifeworld governed by normative consensus (Buechler 1995: 455). For Habermas, the new conflicts thus arise at the seam between system and life-world (1981: 36). One could understand this dynamic as the constant dialectic of re-emerging spheres of social life. This logic seems reminiscent of Webers concerns of an iron cage of rationalization or Marxs observation that bourgeois colonization draws in all people, creating a world after its own image. Habermas focus on lived experience outside of the logics of rationalization and capitalism has sensitized NSM theorists to understand social movements emanating from a mosaic of individuals and communities identities, concerns and beliefs, laying the groundwork for many NSM theories. Social movements as conceived by NSM theorists work to sustain collective identities, defend popular interests, and, crucially, create and defend autonomous and democratic spaces for marginalized communities (Buechler 1995: 433). In resisting social and cultural colonization and defending autonomy, NSMs are typically described (ideally) as inherently democratic, following a prefigurative logic of modeling the

change for which a group is fighting. Underlying the view of democratic resistance is an essentially authoritarian tendency within capitalist and bureaucratic systems of power which benefit elites. NSMs are seen to rely primarily on symbolic actions which defend against not only the social and cultural colonization of powerful interests, but crucially to defy the basic logic of those interests, which are often masked in a discourse of efficiency (Buechler 1995: 443). Autonomy and democracy, then, have become benchmarks against which some NSM theorists have come to judge movements. The formation of autonomous and democratic spaces can allow movements to take on both defensive and offensive characteristics. Democratization, then, can be seen as resistance against systemic colonization while also taking a proactive stance with respect to lifeworld rationalization (Buechler 1995: 449). Dovetailing with this focus on cultural resistance was an analytic schema deployed by Snow et al. (1986) concerning how movements frame issues of concern, describing both the importance and functioning of collective action frames in political protest movements. Snow et als 1986 work, Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization, and Movement Participation popularized the framing perspective and delineated an early formulation of frame alignment processes by which individuals come to accept the framing of a social movement organization. Whereas grievances were previously assumed to flow directly from ones structural location (often economic location), a framing analysis is based in the insight that problems must be understood in specific ways if corrective action is to be successfully demanded. Specifically, this framing or interpretive work is a collective and interactive process by which misfortunesmust come to seem both unjust and mutable (Snow et al. 1986: 466 emphasis added; Snow 2007: 384; Buechler 1995: 446).

Movements therefore act as signifying agents as movement communities, networks, and organizations develop and sustain meaning in a way that encourages action to purposefully change (or resist change) in the social world (Snow 2007: 384). Although frame alignment has generally been thought of as a micro, almost social-psychological process, more recently scholars have recognized the role of framing at the organizational level in the mobilization of an assortment of groups rather than an individual per se (Snow 2007: 387) Of framing processes described by Snow et al., the most dramatic is termed frame transformation, through which activities, events, and biographies that are already meaningful from the standpoint of some primary framework are redefined in such a way that they seem by the participants to be something quite else (Snow et al. 1986: 473). The inclusion of biography in the above statement highlights the shifting and (sub)culturally-defined nature of identities, the construction and maintenance of which are key to NSM theories. Whereas C. Wright Mills discussed how historic social changes impact the biographies of individuals, we now appreciate that resocialization into movement communities can transform ones subjective understanding of events, grievances, and ones identity, a key process within a movements interpretive work. The emergence and growing salience of an identity aligned to a social movement community, or a collective identity, are both a major prerequisite and a major accomplishment of the new social movements (Buechler 1995: 446). Although the class base of NSMs has been described as the new middle class, this comes across more as a descriptor of many identity-focused movements under consideration that does not necessarily disqualify activists from other economic classes, especially those with contradictory class locations, as being involved in NSM activity (Buechler 1995: 454). In fact, the creation and maintenance of a class identity may be treated as other collective identities in social movement analyses.

The new middle class in the United States came to prominence in the post World War II period, as the GI Bill and Cold War development and research lead to a doubling of college enrollment between 1945 and 1950. Universities became training grounds for new generations of members of the professional managerial class and Cold Warriors (Aronowitz and Difazzio 2010: 41; Ciafone 2005: 5). This period of the embourgeoisement of the US population has been described as the end of the working class (Walkerdine and Ringrose 2006: 3). In reality, increasing security, upward mobility and living standards during the post-war boom were coupled with an ideological fight against communism. Cold War sectarianism marginalized social analyses that might have questioned utopian capitalism by focusing on the operation of class within the United States, leading to the invisibility of class as a concept (Skeggs 2002: 7). The new middle class were not the maligned bosses of the Marxist imagination, but rather professionals within the government and corporate bureaucracies which also doubled in the immediate post-war period. Ideologically, this new designation so hegemonically permeated American life that even labor leaders today, whose currently declining positions were forged in the post-war labor contract with capital, continue to describe union factory workers as middle class. This new class dynamic formed the material basisfor the American ideology of exceptionalism, and particularly, the belief in mobility which would take central importance in the rise of neoliberal ideology (Aronowitz and Difazzio 2010: 41). While many of these private sector professional workers were still exploited, intergenerational living standards rose for this class of mainly white, male workers. Academic prestige and higher levels of autonomy allowed the US worldview to trumpet Weberian status-based arguments while maligning Marxian economicclass analysis.

Given that class identity formation, along with other identities, can be seen as the intersections of the subjective, the group, and the structural, class identity can be studied through NSM lenses initially developed to highlight other realms of identity. Like race, gender, and sexuality, class identities must be stimulated, nurtured and even molded (Snow 2007: 381) through collective processes if a movement is to challenge the common assumption that America is homogenously middle class. While microsituational encounters can be seen as ground zero for all social action structural inequality is based in a societys economic organization (Stuber 2006: 343; Yodanis 2006: 343). Subjectivity, then, is constructed from positions within social relations and structures (Skeggs 2002: 12). As Marx explained, Men [sic] make their own history, but not just as they please The legacy of the dead generations weighs like a nightmare upon the brains of the living. It may be helpful then for sociologists to describe the dialectical relationship between these two levels of analysis, with a reminder that neither structures nor beliefs are static and class can be seen as a process always changing and in formation (Bettie 2003: 193). These insights reinforce the fact that, against structuralist or economic-determinist viewpoints, changes in economic structure do not seamlessly lead to class consciousness without the ideological intervention of those ready to advocate for a reformulation of class subjectivity as enacted and performed daily on the micro level (Skeggs 2002: 6). Although most NSM theorizing of identity has focuses on the internal culture of social movement organizations and networks, Buechler notes that NSM theories also attempt to understand the structural backdrop of movement organizing (Buechler 1995: 443). One attempt to incorporate this backdrop is the political process/political opportunities approach. These models can be fused with cultural models to highlight both political and cultural or symbolic opportunities that determine what kind of ideas become visible for the public, resonate

with public opinion and are held to be legitimate by the audience. (Kriesi 2007: 72) According to Snow, such political and cultural opportunities can call current cultural frames into question, giving space for social movements to perform interpretive work in the newly-opened cultural space (Snow 2007: 385). Political shifts can change power relations between social groups (often the elites and the marginalized) with distinct interests. According to McAdam, any event or broad social process that serves to undermine the calculations and assumptions on which the political establishment is structured occasions a shift in political opportunities. (1982: 41) Central to this analysis is McAdams inclusion of long-term socioeconomic changes. Some changes, those which create greater political opportunity of insurgent groups, can simultaneously improve the bargaining position of a population while also hindering elites abilities to suppress mobilization (McAdam 1982: 42-43). Activists insurgent potential springs from their location in various politicoeconomic structures (McAdam 1982: 37). However, this potential will likely not be realized when lacking previously-mentioned framing processes. It is through this specific frame alignment, described as cognitive liberation, that social actors come to recognize and act upon this increase in structural power (McAdam 1982: 50). This process is only likely to occur when organizations or networks contain sufficiently strong interpersonal connections among members as to facilitate (as a group) such framing (McAdam 1982). The above discussion highlights theoretical themes that will be salient to the following analysis of graduate employee unions. Rather than seeing each of these theories and their related conceptual tools as variables for movement emergence and participation, I will be focusing on the dialectical relationship through which the political opportunity structure impacts groups decisions to form unions (as opposed to other activist organizations or none at all), and how

those labor organizations utilize framing. This analysis gives special consideration to social movement unionism, a closely-related field of action to graduate employee unions which is highly congruent with NSM theories.

ON THE LABOR MOVEMENT: BUREAUCRACY vs. SOCIAL MOVEMENT UNIONISM As noted earlier, the labor movement has had a tenuous relationship with current social movement theorizing, with the bureaucratic and interest group pole of the labor movement capturing the imagination of many observers. Whereas it is accurate that many unions have not acted as SMOs in the second half of the 20th century, researchers have overlooked the diversity within the movement that includes elements of radical, and even new social movements (Fantasia and Stepan-Norris 2007: 556). Recognizing this dynamic, we can speak of two souls of the labor movement, with new social movement elements acting both outside of and within (and often against) the bureaucratic tendencies and hierarchies of many unions. Bureaucratic unionism The bureaucratic model of unionism has been termed service unionism or business unionism reflecting a tendency to concentrate power in the union hierarchy, cooperate with management to discipline and regulate the workforce and discourage democratic tendencies within the union (Parker and Gruelle 1999: 24; Moody 2007: 184; Clawson 2003: 42). This tendency within many unions is characteristic of the interest group model of unionism, and clearly does not act as a social movement. Business unionism became entrenched and institutionalized in the post World War II accord between business and labor. For example, union staffs expansion quickly outpaced rank and file member growth in the period from 2949 to 1970, signaling a power shift from union members to expert and professional union staff


(Clawson 2003: 32-33). This is clearly seen in the history and organization of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) which organized white, male workers beginning in 1886 partly to pull American workers away from the more radical Knights of Labor, which at the time counted over 700,000 members (approximately 10% of the American industrial labor force), including male and female, white and black workers outside of the South (Fantasia and Stepan-Norris 2007: 561). Social movement unionism The often-overlooked radical pole of the labor movement, a central branch of which is termed social movement unionism, is characterized by labor organizations and networks which provide a radical vision and employ internal union democracy in the struggle on the shop floor as well as broad progressive struggles for the working class and oppressed communities (Moody 2007: 236). Fantasia and Stepan-Norris succinctly lay out one history of social movement unionism, tracing their analysis to the above mentioned Knights of Labor in 1886 (2007: 563). The basic formula for social movement unionism is laid out as union + community + issue campaign (Moody 2007: 236). The community in this formula may be local or global. Such social movement unionism often also relies on internationalism, making it highly congruent with current global flows of both workers and capital. Moody, for example, includes organizations such as COSATU in South Africa as well as transnational ties between US unions and their counterparts abroad (Moody 2007: 236-239). These dynamics are particularly well suited to

produce a convergence of theories that explain both old and new social movements (Carty 2006: 239). Further, organizations are not static, but can vacillate between poles with changing conditions both internal and external to the movement, such as shake up internal elections and


campaigns. In the decline of the union movement, however, social movement unionism has been given increased opportunity to organize within the traditional union movement and alongside the unions themselves. Todays social movement unionism recognizes many forms of organizing in the support of workers and alliances in an overall struggle for justice (Carty 2006: 242). The

social movement wing of the labor movement can be seen in the rise of several organizations and networks. Workers Centers, for example, operate on a community-basis and often organize immigrant labor and other labor pools historically overlooked by unions. These non-profits are organized locally and networked through groups including the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Interfaith Worker Justice. Community-labor partnerships such as Jobs with Justice use social movement tactics in support of labor causes. Extra-union organizations and networks also facilitate social movement unionism by promoting internal union democracy while helping to highlight the broad field of labor and community-labor struggles. Two prominent organizations in this regard are the Association for Union Democracy and Labor Notes whose express purpose is putting the movement back in the labor movement. Groups internal to the union movement also organize within the social movement union frame: reform caucuses within unions, such as Teamsters for a Democratic Union, raise questions about internal union democracy while groups like US Labor Against War, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and the Congress of Rank and File Educators advocate around central social movement issues from a labor perspective. The United Electricians, the independent, rank-and-file union, gives a union organizational form to social movement aspirations through a commitment to internal democracy and building international solidarity with workers in Mexico, China and the Philippines. Central to this study, student-labor solidarity organizations have strengthened social movement unionism over the last two decades. Gaining


resources and strategic support from unions, student groups have fought for an international and community solidarity approach to workers rights, with student-labor alliances being seen as a clear example of social movement unionism (Carty 2006: 244). These groups include United Students Against Sweatshops, the Student Labor Action Project, and the Student Farmworker Alliance. Whereas the previous discussion of current social movement unionism groups is not exhaustive, it should give pause to sociologists who would discount the labor movement as simply a bureaucratic hold-over of an earlier age or an interest group. One might question why such diverse SMOs have been routinely overlooked within the discipline, which has favored (while simultaneously discounting) the official labor movement. Part of this may be the institutionalization of labor studies and industrial relations programs. These programs have likely overlooked the radical wings of the labor movement that are often critical of the large unions and labor federations which supply crucial support to labor studies in the decline of public funding. As relations between labor-oriented SMOs have not been holistically studied, these groups are at times looked at through the lenses of other movements. For example, a review of peace activism (see Coy, Whirley, and Maney 2008) may mention labor-oriented SMOs such as US Labor Against the War. Without a coherent study of labor SMOs addressing a gamut of social issues, operating with varying degrees of relations to unions, a full understanding of labors place in the social movement literature is lacking. Although the AFL has been the main labor federation in the US for over a century, social movement unionism has continued to resist both business and business unionism throughout this period. Most notably, the early phase of the CIO included many communists, socialists, and other labor radicals. Left-lead unions continued the social movement unionism tradition with a


focus on internal democracy, labor militancy, and fighting for racial and gender equality on the job and in society at large (Fantasia and Stepan-Norris 2007: 566). During and preceding World War II, many radicals were demobilized or red baited and forced out of the labor movement by both a war-accommodating stance taken by the Soviet Union and later McCarthyist purges of all American institutions. This purge crippled the social movement wing of the labor movement and facilitated the thoroughgoing bureaucratization of postwar labor relations (Fantasia and Stepan-Norris 2007: 566). The postwar labor compact, though which bureaucratic unionism was often used to the benefit of capital, would be broken in the 1980s, however, with massive government and capital offences against organized labor. This decline in unionism since the 1980s has pushed even larger unions to use new strategies, with some concluding that the only way to win is to act more like a movement (Clawson 2007: 28). This time period is also when we see large unions such as the UAW beginning to support graduate employee unions, thereby diversifying their base of support. To highlight the multifaceted, often disjointed community of labor activists, I propose social movement theorists include analyses of Labor Movement Organizations and Networks (LMONs) to highlight the diverse organizational and ideological forms that co-exist within the labor movement landscape. For example, case study analyses of LMONs, as LMONs, can help to focus our analysis on both the ties between labor and other social movements and also highlight pushes for democratic reforms within unions and workplaces. The latter carries important weight with regard to NSM theorys focus on democracy and prefigurative forms of organizing. From a Habermasian perspective, democracy initiatives on the job and in unions could be understood as not only defending a lifeworld from systemic colonization, but also actively constructing a democratic lifeworld within those very structures. A clear entry-point to


looking into LMONs is the study of graduate employee unionism. These organizations display many features of social movement unionism and serve as linkages between the traditional labor movement and the new social movements in which university students often play several roles (Carty 2006: 239). With the recent upsurge in graduate employee unions, their willingness to tie their workplace struggles to fights of collective consumption, the important role that university settings have played in many social movements, and the possibility that the rapid turn-over in graduate employment may undermine bureaucratic tendencies, graduate employee unions seem uniquely suited to begin an investigation of social movement unionism, thus reinserting labor into the discourse of NSM theory and research.

GRADUATE EMPLOYEE UNIONS Graduate employee organizing is a timely topic, with some scholars suggesting that the campaigns have grown to the point that we can talk of a graduate employee union movement (Dixon et al. 2008: 379; Rhoades and Rhoads 2003: 176). Although early attempts at graduate employee unionization were closely tied to the New Left in the 1960s (with the University of Wisconsin at Madison recognizing the first union in 1969), the movement remained small for twenty years (Dixon et al. 2008: 376; Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 247). Labor protests picked up on university campuses in the late 1990s, however (Dixon et al. 2008: 375). An analysis of the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions (CGEU) website shows that only seven graduate employee union locals were recognized between 1969 and 1989, whereas twenty-three were recognized between 1990 and 2009 ( Given that many of these newer union locals cover several campuses within one system (including the University of California and the State Universities of New York), this organizing uptick between 1990 and 2005 swelled


the ranks of organized graduate employees by 175%, from 19,900 to 40,000 (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 284). Since 2005, five graduate employee unions have won recognition, indicating that this number is considerably greater today. These locals tend to be located in the Midwest (48%) and the Northeast (29%), with each local residing in a state that allows collective bargaining for public employees. The legal recognition of the right to collectively bargain impacts the likelihood that unions, such as the UAW, AFT, or UE, will support organizing on campus, increasing the odds that these international unions will gain a return on their investments of capital and energy (Dixon et al. 2008: 382). Each graduate employee local is affiliated with a national union or labor organization, with a slight majority of locals being affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and almost 26% being affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW) ( As the UAW covers several system-wide locals, however, in 2005 they represented 42% of all graduate employee unionists while the AFT represented 24% (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 248). Again, these percentages have likely changed since 2005, as the AFT picked up three locals since that period and the UAW has not added any locals in the last six years. Regardless, the high representation percentages by the UAW, as opposed to the AFT, a union of professionals, indicate both that graduate employees identification as workers, may play a role in their organizational affiliation.

Political opportunities in academia Sensitized to political opportunity and political process orientations within new social movement theories, an analysis of graduate employee unions would be incomplete without a review of the shifting structures and cultures within the academy. While the university system


played a central role in the formation of the new middle class after WWII from which NSMs are thought to emanate, current shifts in the academic workplace in the last three to four decades bear directly on the current organizing drives and may have wide implications for the class composition of American society. In the economic expansion beginning in 1945, the rise of the professional class was directly related to vast expansions of the university system and bureaucracies throughout both government and corporate structures, facilitating the belief of relatively easy class mobility and class fluidity (Aronowitz and Difazzio 2010: 41). In the 1970s, massive divestments began through public higher education (Etin 2005: 26). Correspondingly, university administrators turned to private funding sources, including increases in student tuition and corporate research funding. These funding needs dovetailed well with corporate investment interests of the time. With decreasing material production within the United States, corporations sought investments in other arenas of social life. According to Castree and Sparke: Businessmen are flocking to education, bringing with them a flood of dollars. They say they will turn the $700 billion education sector into the next healthcare that is, transform large portions of a fragmented, cottage industry of independent, nonprofit institutions into a consolidated, professionally managed, money-making set of businesses that include all levels of education (2000: 225). This flocking could be understood as a capitalist colonization of the lifeworlds, creating new channels of previously unproductive labor power to generate private profits within public social services, including the communal space of academic freedom that is the educational ideal (Castree and Sparke 2000: 223). According to Foucault, this is not a dichotomous clashing of systems, but rather an outgrowth of complex power relations that influence both organizational structure and the ideological underpinnings of their functioning (Ouellette 2008: 233).


Researchers and activists have described these structural changes, with union organizing being understood primarily as a reaction to changes in university labor conditions (Dixon et al. 2008: 380). These shifts have been described as the de-professionalization and proletarianization of academic work (Etin 2005: 73; Aronowitz and Diffazio 2010: 221). This proletarianization includes the demand for increasingly flexible labor (with less stability and fewer benefits), decreases in work autonomy (with an intensification of hierarchy and increased power of managers/administrators), and an inability to control labor supply (Aronowitz 1998: 161-162; Slaughter 2000: 73). Whereas some professional associations have historically been able to control entry into the fields of medicine, law, engineering and accounting, these associations are now undermined by the internal business needs of professional schools. Across these sectors, increasing numbers of credentialed workers is likely to lead to increases in unemployment (Aronowitz 1998: 162). This de-professionalization has not occurred evenly across disciplines and activities, however. The university has shifted from a liberal arts core to an entrepreneurial periphery where increased proportions of both private and state funding are moved into economically productive fields including business, engineering, physical sciences and law (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 251). Injections of market capital into research further alienates workers.

Under market logic, research directed by autonomous and curious, morally charged scientists for the sake of long-term social and scientific significance is undermined to make increasing room for research that is assessed as potentially profitable (Castree et al. 2006: 763). Corporate funding schemes also alienate researchers from one another, with patent concerns taking central importance over the open and cumulative search for knowledge. Contemporary funding systems have not only impacted the size and activity of programs, but have translated into a devaluing of


work, particularly teaching, in the humanities and social sciences. Teaching assistants (TAs) in these fields earning an average of $5,000 less than their research counterparts in the physical sciences (Dixon et al. 2008: 379). Perhaps most important implication of changing funding schemes in relation to graduate employee unionization is the percentage of undergraduate teaching performed by flexible labor, including teaching assistants, part-time instructors, and other non-tenure-track faculty. The use of nonstandard employees has been described as a major cause in increased organizing efforts (Dixon et al. 2008: 380). Whereas past cohorts had reasonable expectations of receiving tenure track jobs after the completion of a PhD, today 75% of new appointments are not tenuretrack (Etin 2005: 27). This coincides with a decrease in tenure track positions of 10% since the late 1990s and an increase in TA positions of 40% (Dixon et al. 2007: 377). Non-tenure-track faculty members, then, teach the majority of undergraduate students in college campuses and (when including for-profit, private and public institutions) account for 70% of all faculty positions (Dixon et al. 2007: 380; Etin 2005: 26). Culturally, this decline in the size of tenurefaculties has created a power vacuum of university governance which has been filled by increased administrative and managerial power (Etin 2005: 73). These wide economic, structural, and cultural changes within higher education can be seen as a historically specific social formations which is the structural backdrop for graduate employee unionizing (Buechler 1995: 443). These changing structures within higher education pose a paradoxical issue for graduate employees and other non-tenure-track faculty. With a solidifying of power among administrators, individual non-tenure-track educational workers are at a disadvantage. In fact, the increase in contingent teaching (described by Etin as a two-tier labor system in higher


education) is undermining the ability of graduates to find tenure-track jobs, purging the system of the very jobs that many graduate employees expect to receive (Etin 2005: 73). However, the sheer amount of teaching work done on college campuses by these workers allows for a great amount of structural power when struggled for collectively. According to McAdam, long-term socioeconomic changes can impact the amount of structural power of different groups, accounting for improved bargaining positions (1982: 42-43). This increased political leverage may thus be described as a political opportunity within universities, which can become a cultural opportunity if graduate employee unions can effectively foment collective liberation among academic workers. This seems to be the case, as research has indicates that the graduate employee unionization movement is primarily a reaction to changing labor conditions within the university (Dixon et al. 2008: 380). Framing: When work and collective goods meet The changing structure and cultures of higher education described above are often credited with the rise in graduate employee unions. The inclusion of these details in much of the analysis concerning (and coming from) unionists and their supporters represents one aspect of the interpretive work of framing: highlighting these facts function to organize experience and guide action (Snow et al. 1986: 464). Within this framing, the above changes are often labeled neoliberalism, academic capitalism, or the corporate university by unionists and supporters. Perhaps the most important task of graduate employee unionists, then, is frame amplification by which particular elements of the structure are highlighted and problematized. Through belief amplification and value amplification (Snow et al. 1986: 469) unionists may frame such changes as dire threats. This seems to be happening, with much of the criticism framing an assault in which a hostile takeover by an external enemythreatens the basic


values of the academy (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 252). Unionists have also displayed attempts at value amplification, elevating concerns about democracy, shared-governance, workers rights, social justice, and protecting education from this corporatization. Together, these processes reflect an attempt on the part of activists to foment cognitive liberation as discussed by McAdam (1982). Whereas expanding political opportunities and increases in structural power build structural potential for social movements, SMOs must translate such potential into a campaign (McAdam 1982: 44). This translation is mediated via framing. Whereas framing can be seen in messaging, by using terms like academic capitalism or identifying as graduate employees rather than graduate students, the organizational response of unionization, as opposed to other forms of organizing, can be seen as a symbolic action in itself. Rhoads and Rhoades found that union organizers see unionization as both a symbol of and challenge to the corporatization of the American research university (2005: 246). NSM theory, being concerned with such symbolic action, is therefore well suited to address this movement (Buechler 1995: 442). The structural changes described above closely follow the logic of capitalism: the logic of accumulation, commodification, profit-maximization, competition. (Wood 1997). By viewing structural and cultural changes within higher education in this way, we may describe them in Habermasian terms as the colonization of the lifeworld of higher education. Graduate employee unions and individual activists have been highly consistent on this point, defining their organizing as a resistance to a corporate-driven economic logic in the contemporary university (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 252). To the extent that graduate employee unions resist these changes by defying both capitalist logic and the administrative-centric power structure, we can think of these movements


as resistance movements against such colonization. This formulation places graduate employee unions unambiguously within the realm of NSMT, with a focus on resistance to a systemic logic of commodification and bureaucratization (Buechler 1995: 433). Research has indicated that this is the case. Graduate employee unions both seek to alter the distribution of power within the academy through collective bargaining and challenge the market-driven aspects of the university (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 243). Researchers have predicted that this colonization may push graduate employees toward identifying as workers (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 270). It is here, at the seam of the lifeworld of the university and what is seen as encrosion by corporate-driven economic logic that graduate employee unionists framed their struggle (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 252). Although Habermas sees such resistance as purely defensive, to the degree that such LMONs in higher education actively construct democratic spaces and facilitate the emergence of lifeworlds within a colonized system, we can recognize the potential for progressive and radical elements within the movement. Studies of graduate employee organizing indicate that democracy is a central theme among these organizations and activists. In portraying the consolidation of administrative power as antidemocratic, graduate employee unions have highlighted the connection between democracy and collective bargaining (Dawson 2007: 93). It has also been found that graduate employee union websites regularly focus on democratic discourse, with a strong theme of participatory democracy and challenge the commodification of the knowledge commons by decrying the erosion of autonomous governance (Dawson 2007: 92). Although NSM theory focuses more on promoting autonomy and self determination than on maximizing influence and power, these unions see the struggles for democracy and for increased power as synonymous (Buechler 1995: 442). Concerns about


democracy are another indication that these LMONs are within the realm of social movement unionism, as also signified by their willingness to take on broader issues than the rights of their members as workers. Along with concerns of democracy, both social movement unionism and other NSMs are deeply concerned with justice and building cross-movement alliances. One NYU graduate employee activist describes how the union has created committeesto embrace activism on issues as varied as academic freedom, environmentalism, [and] peace (Dawson 2007: 98). The NYU organizing campaign operated under the banner Another University is Possible. This slogan is a play on the theme of the social forum movement: Another World is Possible, indicating that activists constructed their message in a way as to highlight their connections with widespread social justice concerns. A review of graduate employee union websites also shows that concern for social justice, particularly affirmative action (Rhoades and Rhoads 2003: 177). In framing their struggle as one against corporatization, graduate employee unions are not only working to protect their members, but education more broadly. The protection of the public good, as well as the possibility that such defensive maneuvering can sow the seeds for proactive struggle, has been described in heroic terms by Bourdieu: If one can retain some hope, it is that in state institutions there still exist forces which, under the appearance of simply defending a vanishing orderwill in facthave to work to invent and construct a social order which is not governed solely by the pursuit of selfish interests and individual profit. (Dawson 2007: 91)

The defense of public goods, then, is seen as embodying a resistance from the universality of capitalist logic, while holding ground within the lifeworld from which a counterattack can be mounted. These demands are in line with NSM theories emphasis on demands concerning collective consumption provided by the state (Buechler 1995: 433).


Protecting education, specifically, is well-suited to concerns of NSM theorists, who see NSMs as being concerned about cultural reproduction, social integration and socialization, all processes central to the educational experience (Buechler 1995: 446). Graduate unions have consistently raised the theme of protecting public education from the commodifying impacts of academic capitalism. These grievances, as raised on graduate employee union websites, concern class size and available training for graduate employee teachers (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 247, 252). These grievances can be seen as instances of frame bridging and laid out by Snow et al. (1986). This interpretive work refers to linking ideologically congruent but structurally unconnected frames (Snow et al. 1986: 467). In taking on issues of collective consumption, graduate employee unions are able to gain support among unmobilized sentiment pools of undergraduate students, their parents, and other supporters of quality education, thus building their support base. When interviewed, graduate employee unionists have described the devaluation of their work as teachers indicates a lack of concern for undergraduate education on the part of administrators. Administrations profit-maximizing strategies have thus been described as assembly line undergraduate education which undermines both educational quality for students and working conditions for teachers (Rhoades and Rhoads 2003: 176). This issue of the pride in ones work ties together materialist grievances of pay and benefits with postmaterialist concerns of dignity and respect. Academics, as both teachers and researchers, are socialized to care deeply about their work. This indicates an emotional quality to framing among graduate employee unions. Whereas concerns for institutional democracy and shared governance, social justice, and educational quality are pertinent to graduate employee unions framing and grievances, the


graduate employee unionizations main concerns are wages, benefitsprotections[and] health care insurance (Rhoades and Rhoads 2003: 176). While some administrators have tried to dissuade unionization by indicating that such a movement increases the business model of education, union activists are unambiguous that their actions are a response to a corporate course that has already been charted by university administrators (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 269). The increased incursion of capitalist logic into the lifeworld of the university may then be seen as an opportunity for that unfashionable thing called class struggle (Wood 1997). Indications that graduate employees see themselves as workers are evident in the union movement. For example, unionists organized under the slogan the university works because we do indicating not only their identities as workers, but the centrality of their labor to the educational system (Dixon et al. 2008: 276). According to common framing of these SMOs, exploitation is inherent to corporate logic and the increased use of graduate assistants and parttime instructors is an exploitative practice as more teaching labor power is extracted from workers who can be paid less and the wages and benefits of high-level administrative staff is on the rise (Rhoads and Rhoades 2005: 252, 262). Identity: Marginalized Workers Through framing, particularly cognitive liberation and frame amplification, graduate employee organizations have sought to influence how graduate employees understand the changing structural spaces within the educational system and their roles within them. Through this interpretive work, social agents construct public meaning systems which are both the basis and the object of real social practice as well as the material for identity formation (Bettie 2003: 54; Ortner 1998: 10). The re-formulation of graduate employees as primarily workers can be described as a frame transformation, a process of redefining activitiesand


biographies that are already meaningful from the standpoint of some primary framework, in terms of another framework such that they are now seen by the participants to be something quite else (Snow et al. 1986: 473). This frame transformation is not only a shift from professional or apprentice to worker, but more specifically to marginalized workers with low pay, few benefits, and low security (Rhoades and Rhoads 2003: 176). Clifford Geertz notes that

graduate employees refer to themselves as the pre-unemployed (Moser 2001: 6). This cynical outlook is reflected in Freemans assessment of graduate employment as transient temp jobs for the new education industry (2000: 251). It is this identity as marginalized workers that has become a uniting, collective identity among graduate employee unionists (Rhoades and Rhoads 2003: 175). Arguments against graduate employee unions often suggest that graduate employees are primarily student apprentices and not workers. If we look historically to earlier phases of capitalism, the transformation of apprentices to factory workers was met with organizing and resistance, laying the groundwork for todays unionization. An increase in market-logic in higher education undermines the conceptualization of graduate employees as apprentices in a guild. Recognizing that they lack a guarantee of entry into the profession many graduate employees have thus rejected the apprentice identity (Rhoads and Rhoades 2003: 175). The apprentice theory has also been questioned on the grounds that teaching assignments are often designed to fill the needs of a department over the training needs of graduate employees (Dawson 2007: 92) and on the basis that shrinking pools of tenured faculty often cannot provide the appropriate mentoring relationship that the apprentice label would imply (Freeman 2000; 253). As we saw earlier, the devaluing of labor in higher education is not consistent across fields and roles, with non-market-oriented activities being relegated to the lowest rungs of the


changing academic division of labor. Those most devalued (teaching assistants in the humanities and social sciences) have been found to be the strongest supporters of union activity (Dixon et al. 2008: 379). Bourdieus framework may help explain this devaluation process. Whereas educational attainment is understood as harbinger of cultural capital, this form of capital can only generate social power, and subsequently economic capital, through social legitimating or transference via symbolic capital (Skeggs 2002: 8). Symbolic capital legitimates other forms of capital and therefore make them transferrable into economic benefit or increases in social status, but this conversion can become blocked by structural power and ideological discourses (Skeggs 2002: 11). Such blockages delegitimize cultural capital, limiting its social power. Even if such capital still holds significance for the individual, it cannot be traded as an asset (Skeggs 2002: 10). Class positions are closely related to the degree by which cultural capital is legitimated and therefore able to generate economic and social benefit. While the cultural capital of the middle classes can offer substantial rewards in the labor market (Skeggs 2002: 10), delegitimized capital ceases to promise such rewards. As economic structures change, such rewards can be made null. Changing structures in the academic workplace has created increased political opportunities for graduate employee unions to organize and operate, and we have seen a dramatic increase in such organizing since the 1990s. These organizations frame their grievances and outlooks around a discourse of resistance to corporate incursion into the academy, which impacts working conditions, the autonomy of research, and the quality of undergraduate education. As such, graduate employee unions have organized around both materialist concerns for wages and benefits as well as postmaterialist concerns for the public


good of education. Central to this framing has been capitalizing on the identity of teaching assistants and other graduate employees as marginalized workers. This has been strongest among the social sciences and humanities, within those disciplines that have been the most devalued as resources are moved toward the logic of capital.

CONCLUSION This essay is an attempt to come to terms with a particular deficiency of contemporary social movement literature: the exclusion of discussions of radical and progressive LMONs, through looking at both the history of social movement unionism and its current organizational embodiment in graduate employee union organizing. LMONs are ripe for sociological analysis and can help to sensitize researchers within both sociology and labor studies to the nuances of social movements by incorporating the labor movement into the realm of new social movements. In order for NSM theory to fully understand the gamut of current organizing, more holistic research into LMONs will be necessary. One avenue for exploring these LMONs, as discussed above, is the study of graduate employee unions. Focusing attention on the political opportunity structures within which these unions operate and the framing content of their organizing campaigns and internal education, this essay has demonstrated a significant congruence between new social movement theory and graduate employee unions. While this essay has attempted a broad review of NSM theory themes as they may apply to graduate employee unions, more research is needed into each area.


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