The labor movement is alive and well on college campuses! In early November 2019, over 75 representatives from higher education unions across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) Higher Education Convening.  The convening was jointly hosted by Rutgers CIWO, ACRE, and Georgetown Kalmanovitz Institute.  CIWO’s Marilyn Sneiderman and Legna Cabrera facilitated sessions alongside other leaders in the BCG network.

From Birmingham to Chicago, from San Francisco to New Brunswick, we came together as professors, graduate students, and staff fighting for our communities and rights in the workplace while pushing back against the financialization of higher education. Hélène Huet, a convening attendee and research librarian from the University of Florida and the United Faculty of Florida (AFT/NEA), reflected: “The energy in the room was invigorating. I had never thought of bringing common good issues to the bargaining table before this. It was inspiring being in a room with people from all over the country with the same goal: to make higher education more just and improving working conditions for higher ed employees.”

We built relationships between activists from campuses across the country, discussed the potential roadblocks and challenges to common good campaigns, and shared stories about successful BCG campaigns. Whether organizing without bargaining rights or building contract fights around issues like housing, racial justice and climate change, we walked away with new energy and ideas about how to build bargaining for common good on our home campuses. We found that, though our institutions and the students we serve may be different, we are all facing the same challenge: a system that increasingly devalues students, employees, and communities as it transforms higher education into a profit-making venture.

Special thanks to the representatives from AFSCME, AFT, CWA, NEA, and SEIU at the local and national level who served on our design team, spoke on panels, or led break-out discussions. We walked away with a deeper understanding of how unions can be a force for good in higher education, not just for employees but for the communities impacted by colleges and universities across the country.

This gathering is part of the movement to reclaim our campuses and institutions of higher education for students and our communities. As we return to our schools, unions, and communities, we are excited to use the lessons of the convening to bring new energy into the movement for the common good on campus. “CIWO is excited to partner with unions, community and racial justice groups to build a movement to transform bargaining into cutting edge Bargaining for the Common Good!” -- Marilyn Sneiderman, CIWO Executive Director.