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Social Movement Unionism (Santa Cruz)

Held February 3, 2015 at the University of California Santa Cruz. Moderated by Daniel Rudin.

Panelists:

Mike Rotkin - Lecturer in Community Studies at the UCSC
Allison Cabrera - SEIU, National Labor College
Steve Early - Labor Notes

Description:

Recently, campus-based unions have been organizing under the concept of "social movement unionism", and so we seek to ask the question - what does "social movement unionism" actually mean? The panel seeks to discuss this as a concept for campus-based organizing and situate the theory and practice of social movement unionism in relation to both the broader labor movement as well as to politics.

Panel Questions:

  1. Does the “movement” aspect of “social movement unionism” stand for the same thing as politics? If not what is the difference between movements and politics? How do you view the sectional demands of students relating to the demands of other sections of society - and how do they do so in a way that is better or worse than any other workplaces? 
  2. What kind of issues can be addressed through university unions?  Do you see university unions in any way as a “vanguard” or a strategy to revitalize left politics? As a way to restart the labor movement?
  3. How should public university unions relate to the local and national Democratic Parties?  Is a relationship necessary to preserve collective bargaining rights for state unions?  What can be said about the current frustration with fee increases?
  4. Is there something ‘politically formative' about the experience of striking, occupying, etc. that is necessary for building Left politics?  For rebuilding the labor movement?
  5. The International UAW administration prides itself on its partnership with the Big 3 and have used this as the primary message for organizing the foreign owned auto plants.  Are labor-management partnerships an organizing tool or liquidation of the labor movement?  What kind of relationship should university unions have with the administration?  What role should university unions play in directing the ‘work’ of the university?  Is this compatible with transforming the ‘work’ of the university, or with overcoming capitalism?

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