May 2020 Advocate: Higher ed. union activists collaborating to build solidarity


Bay Area higher education union activists collaborating to build solidarity

Higher Educators United Northern-California is a network of higher education workers union activists and organizers who came together inspired by the 2018 RedForEd strike wave and the need to network and build solidarity between local unions. We are committed to actively support each other’s contract campaigns and struggles because we are divided across higher education systems and forced to compete for funding. We are also divided by the two-tier neoliberal system that positions full-time and part-time faculty in a hierarchical relationship, which we strongly object to and want to abolish. We are finally divided across gender, sexuality, nationality and race lines of oppression. We believe that the only way to build unity among education workers is through active solidarity and an explicit commitment to fight for educational equity and social justice.  The RedforEd strike wave showed the power of collective action, and especially of strike action when it is organized from the bottom up. This is why activists in HEU believe in rank and file organizing and building our collective power for action.

HEU originated through planning the “Common Ground” conference last fall sponsored by several locals of the CFT and CFA. We began as a planning group for a spring continuations conference, which we were going to rename “Free Quality Education For All—A Union Conference.”  In the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic crisis and cutbacks that are hitting the faculty, other workers and students of our higher educational institutions, and the general community of the Bay Area, there is a need for affordable, accessible, high quality college classes more than ever as well as secure living wage jobs and meaningful safety net. HEU invites higher educators to contextualize the fight of each local union for their faculty rights in relation to the struggles of the communities our students are coming from. We need more solidarity to achieve that.

HEU has been meeting regularly via zoom and have found this continuing exchange and collaboration vital in order to continue building our solidarity as higher educators. Besides information exchange and conference planning, we are beginning to actively organize around solidarity actions. We have also begun a collaborative relationship with a similar network in K-12 called California Educators United (CEU), which was inspired by the statewide teacher and school-worker strikes and the joint strike recently in Chicago. We do not see this effort as replacing the various local and statewide union formations, but rather supplementing them across organizational lines throughout the Bay Area and NorCal.

If you are interested in learning more about what HEU has been doing, check out our statement on the COVID crisis and connect with us on Facebook.