"We Can Do This. We're Going to Do This": Part Time Worker Unionism in Higher Education

Amanda Walter, Towson University

In 1982, clerical workers at Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Community College voted to unionize with SEIU District 925, the first successful union vote for the new women-led union. The Cuyahoga Community College campaign exposed one of the significant difficulties in higher education organizing, staff in numerous buildings, along with racial segregation on the campuses. While the full-time workers succeeded, the campuses had a large number of part-time clerical staff that were still left unrepresented. This paper will explore the barriers to part-time worker unionism and how they have been overcome at Cuyahoga Community College, resulting in one of the first part-time unions in the country. Few unions made a commitment to unionizing part-time clerical workers due to their gender and work arrangement, some of the lowest paid and least protected members of the workforce. Based on oral histories and Coalition of Labor Union Women and Service Employees International Union records at the Walter Reuther Library in Detroit, I contend that part-time clerical workers achieved unionization in the mid-1980s due to positive public sentiment built up in the initial campaign, numerous preexisting contacts with part-time workers, the advocacy of 9to5, the working women’s organization, on part-time and temporary workers, and a continued commitment to focusing on the needs of the predominantly women workers. Some of the lowest paid and least protected members of the American workforce. Lessons learned during the Cuyahoga Community College informed later SEIU District 925 and part-time worker campaigns.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 222. Professionalizing Labor