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Eric Lee’s Labour Start clearinghouse for global labor news has just announced nominees for its first-ever award, Labor Video of the Year. Two of the five finalists are inspired by working conditions in higher ed. I think both are among the three likeliest to win.

My top choice is the clever, often hilarious series of 30-second spots produced for the three-month strike by the union representing 50% of the teaching faculty at Canada’s York University, CUPE 3903.

Eventually ended by an extraordinary legislative intervention, this legal job action was strongly supported by undergraduates and tenure-stream faculty, who joined the picket lines of contingent faculty and grad students at this leading research institution.

Featuring extremely high production values and great writing, the videos use just a few frames to effectively communicate the hypocrisy of the administration, and the explotation of contingent faculty and graduate students.

A close runner-up is The Janitor, tracking the daily experiences of campus custodial staff–many of whom are also current or former students.

In my view the strongest competition to both entries is provided by a snarky Australian effort, What Have the Unions Ever Done For Us? (Answer: duh, pretty much everything you take for granted in terms of the workplace, from sick leave to the eight-hour day.)

If you’re interested, LS offers a comprehensive bibliography of labor video. You can view and vote on all of the videos in this year’s competition yourself.

Other Left-Labor News

Don’t miss this year’s amazing line-up at Left Forum this weekend in NYC, including plenty of discussion of California events, and featured remarks by Piven, Jackson, Ollman, and Chomsky, among hundreds of others.

AAUP members, please be sure to vote in this year’s officer elections. Cary Nelson is up for re-election, and for the first time non-geographical at-large candidates are up for election to the national Council, representing a lot of new blood for the organization. (I was, ahem, on the nominating commitee, so I know.)

California update

As I wrote in advance of the national day of action on March 4, those events were just the second act. The real question is what will happen when the West Coast schools begin their third quarter in early April. At UC Irvine, the possibilities are foreshadowed by a call for an M4 sequel, or a wave of occupations and other bold direct actions (like the blockade of freeway 1-880) on Tuesday, May 4, the 40th anniversary of the Kent State killings. I’ll write more about these events as the time nears.

By the way, if you are among the modest handful disappointed by my having to cancel out of the UC-Irvine Humanities Center colloquium last month, I’ll be up the road at UCLA on Monday afternoon, May 3, doing a tag-team event with Chris Newfield for Robert Brenner’s Center for Social Theory and Comparative History. The topic, unsurprisingly: “The Future of Public Higher Education in California.”



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