Statement on Student-Worker Solidarity

Statement on Student-Worker Solidarity

The Council for Democratizing Education rejects any attempt to stratify the student and worker movements into hierarchical tiers that privilege the interests or opinions of so-called elite academics. We reject the elite status-group separation of tenured faculty from that of lecturers, post-docs, administrative staff, research assistants, teacher’s assistants, technicians, and service workers for several reasons. Most obviously, these workers are all susceptible to the same kinds of attacks from the University and State. Furloughs, wage cuts, increased workloads, and layoffs fundamentally expose each worker’s common relation to production—even those involved in cultural or intellectual production. The meticulously policed divisions between types of work and groups of workers are used to degrade all labor and cause antagonisms between workers.  

The divisions within and between lecturers, assistant professors, full tenure, etc. are all the product of a calculated effort to de-skill the work of educators through rationalization and the introduction of a tier-system modeled after “part-time” schedules. This trend is well-documented in other occupations—chiefly manufacture, service work, and data entry. As is becoming painfully obvious, work in education and university research is not immune to this capitalist degradation of labor. The once respected occupation of professor has been decomposed into its base parts: grading, discussion, lecture, research, and publishing. These sub-divisions perfectly reflect the different tiers which workers and students (both undergrad and grad) are placed—teaching assistants, readers, lecturers, researcher assistants, lab technicians, and tenured faculty.  

Furthermore, the emergent antagonisms between workers in these tiered systems are meant to manufacture the consent of elitist workers (e.g. tenured faculty and researchers) in the broader exploitation of the majority. Time and time again, graduate students hear non-research teaching positions be denigrated by faculty if not entire departments. Yet, the university system keeps turning out more PhDs than there exist tenure track, research jobs. The implicit, elitist message is clear although the social reality is vehemently downplayed or denied. 

Ironically, this suicidal consent also makes possible the exploitation of these same elite workers whose privilege is purely relative to the heavy exploitation of the majority. It has not exempted these so-called elite workers from the byproducts of privatization and budget cuts: furloughs, wage cuts, increased workloads, and layoffs. However, this consent does obscure the workers’ common social relation and effectively disrupts the unity necessary to fight the system of exploitation affecting every worker and student on campus. With few and exemplary exceptions, faculty have been notably docile concerning the firings of lecturers and absent from the organizing of students and other workers (past the September 24th “teach-outs”) although they themselves have experienced the effects of privatization and the budget cuts.  

This is especially evident with the elite’s complacency of the racist outsourcing of Latina/o workers. Outsourcing is the labor practice of hiring workers indirectly through corporations. While UCI’s administration gets to marginally lower its labor costs by signing contracts with corporations which, in turn, make huge profits by paying the workers terrible wages with little to no sick days, vacation, or health plans and pocketing the difference. In the end, the majority of the workers at UCI must supplement their income with second and third jobs or government assistance programs in spite of working full time. UCI administration gets all the benefits of super-exploitation, but none of the responsibility.  

Moreover, the outsourcing of service jobs has historically been imposed on female workers and workers of color. It is not an unfortunate accident that the majority of custodial workers are Latinas; neither is the fact that the overwhelming majority of service workers at UCI are Latinas/os. UCI’s service workers mostly come from Santa Ana and Orange County barrios—meaning that UCI willfully preys on the very working-class communities it continually claims to help. UCI proudly claims that it encourages diversity because 11-15% of the incoming first years were Latina/o. Unfortunately, UCI’s true achievement in diversity lies in that close to 100% of its outsourced workers—the most exploited workers on campus—have been Latina/o.  

UCI’s racist outsourcing practices and attacks on workers offer a startling glimpse into the grim future of the University of California system and the brutal reality currently facing working class communities. UCI is the State’s innovative new model for the new millennia’s neo-liberal hacienda. 

It is the vilest pit of racist hypocrisy that UCI’s administrators publicize so gleefully the admission rates of Latina/o students all the while exploiting Latina/o workers to such a severe degree as to guarantee that the workers’ children could never afford to attend and complete a university education at the very university where their parents work. And, whenever these workers organize to defend themselves from this abuse, UCI’s administration has taken full advantage of Orange County’s vituperative, anti-immigrant racism to cover for its super-exploitative labor practices and intimidate the workers. 

Yet, it was not until privatization hit home in the form of furloughs and wage cuts for the privileged, elite workers that the majority of their sideways grumblings began. “Privatization has arrived!” some of them indignantly proclaimed. But the stark truth lying beyond their individualistic understanding has been that privatization has been here for quite some time. It was here before the current crisis. Racist outsourcing was its herald, and the message ignored by the majority of these elitist workers. Unfortunately, this identity-based ignorance is racism by structural proxy. 

It is for this reason that the Council for Democratizing Education seeks to abolish the distinction between faculty and service worker. It is these divisions and the blinding alienation that they foster that prevent us from making meaningful connections and building the worker-student solidarity necessary to democratize education against the dictatorship of politicians representing the neo-liberal interests and former-CEO Regents intent on running a public university like a corporation. Students and workers unite!

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