By Bob Reutenauer, 4Cs Organizer
Adjunct faculty members Robyn Brooks (Tunxis), Ray Esponda (Gateway), and 4Cs staff organizer Bob Reutenauer represented the 4Cs in early August at COCAL Conference at University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
The Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL) is a grassroots coalition of activists in North America working for contingent faculty: adjunct, part-time, non-tenured, and graduate teaching faculty. The conference is held every two years and this year was the 12th. The network works to improve higher education through the collective achievement of job security, livable wages, academic freedom, and time and resources for academic research and professional development for contingent academic laborers.
The 4Cs delegation joined 300 other contingent educators from all geographic regions of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., including three adjuncts from CSU-AAUP. Faculty came from all levels of higher education, from public to private non-profit and for-profit institutions. COCAL is dedicated to alerting the broader community about the trends that undermine higher education by staging media events, improving legislation concerning higher education, and identifying colleagues at institutions and assisting them in forming collective bargaining units and negotiating strong contracts.
We all share the same angst with the corporatization of higher education. The precarious status of part-time faculty is global. No benefits, job security, equity, student debt, – a long litany of shared concerns. The most striking achievement of COCAL XII was the knowledge shared by our our Mexican colleagues about the extreme repression they face as unionists organizing to maintain livable wages and decent teaching and learning conditions. Like the Mexican government, the Canadian and USA governments push austerity measures and privatization that we actively oppose. Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose. But we have not been arrested, brutalized or even killed as faculty and student activists in Oaxaca were this year for doing exactly as we do— standing together for dignity and respect for ourselves and our profession.
The next COCAL conference will be in 2018, and planning is beginning now to hold the event in Mexico.