You have /5 articles left.
Sign up for a free account or log in.

Student worker unionization greatly accelerated in 2022 and the first half of 2023, with almost 35,700 students gaining union representation across 30 new collective bargaining units, a new report says.

By comparison, 11 new faculty units, involving fewer than 4,000 faculty members, earned recognition in that time, says the higher education special section of the annual “State of the Unions” report, released Thursday.

“The labor organizing upsurge among student workers has included teaching and research assistants in both the humanities and the previously quiescent STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] fields, as well as undergraduate resident advisers, student dining hall workers and library staff,” the report says. “This new wave of campus labor activism, although larger in scale than before, builds on more than five decades of growth in higher education unionism.”

According to the document, “On average, 91 percent of eligible student-workers voted in favor of unionization in representation elections in 2022-2023 (four additional units were recognized following card checks).” That's compared to the “75 percent average of pro-union votes by graduate assistants in elections during the 2013-2019 period.”

The higher education section was produced by the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York. William A. Herbert, the center’s executive director, said the unionization voting percentages don’t factor in eligible students who didn’t take part in the votes.

The larger report was produced by scholars at the CUNY Graduate Center and the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.

“Nearly three-quarters of the new graduate assistant units and all the undergraduate bargaining units organized during 2022-2023 were at private colleges and universities,” the report says. “By contrast, prior to 2016, nearly all units were composed of graduate student employees at public institutions. Geographically, 70 percent (21) of the new graduate and undergraduate student-worker bargaining units established since January 2022 were located in the Northeast.”

The report also notes a surge in higher education worker strikes: there have been 20 since January 2022.

Almost one-third of all strikes since 2013 took place in 2022 and the first half of 2023. “Moreover,” the report says, “the frequency of strikes accelerated rapidly during that period, with fully half of the 2022-2023 stoppages taking place in the first six months of 2023. Six of the 10 strikes in 2023 involved faculty and post-doctoral units, and five involved student workers.”