Academic Labor is a Class Issue: Professional Organizations Confront the Exploitation of Contingent Faculty

Raymond A. Mazurek

DOI: 10.2190/WR.16.3-4.f


College teaching in the United States is rapidly becoming deprofessionalized. Only about 25% of college teachers in the United States are in tenured or tenure-track positions, while the other 75% of college faculty work in contingent jobs without hope of the job security traditionally associated with the academic profession. As the academic workforce has become dominated by a white-collar working class of skilled labor, professional organizations such as the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) have had a very mixed record in advocating for contingent faculty. For the most part, such organizations have done little beyond adopting statements about faculty workload. When insurgent movements within the CCCC—the national organization for writing teachers, among the most exploited faculty members in the United States—have called for more dramatic action, such as censuring institutions that exploit faculty or holding conferences that would promote organizing, the response of the CCCC has been to coopt these insurgencies and protect the interests of tenure-track faculty. In a deprofessionalized academic workforce, labor unions or other activist organizations are needed. Professional organizations are increasingly irrelevant—unless, like the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), they focus on workforce issues rather than on issues of relevance only to specialists.

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