Tag Archives: labor education

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Labor Rights and College Education

This post was originally published at The Diamondback. Reposted with permission.

By Olivia Delaplaine

Top on the long list of worries for most graduating students is the prospect of finding a job. Each day a hiring manager doesn’t email us back or a website removes a job listing — and the looming anxiety of paying back exorbitant student loans draws closer — our desperation grows. Soon, we abandon pipe dreams of a livable salary with health insurance and paid leave, and begin to search for any work we can find.

We enter interviews insecure, self-conscious and vulnerable. We might take the first offer that comes our way, because we don’t know any better. We feel like it’s a privilege to even be offered a job; so who are we to ask for a higher salary, fixed hours or better health insurance? It’s not like we had the chance to negotiate as a part-time student employee, teaching assistant or intern. We may have even tolerated daily harassment or intimidation while doing our jobs, unable to do anything about it. Why should we expect that to change?

So instead of convincing us that we should dress up and put on a show for companies and organizations that won’t even pay us a living wage, our institutions of higher education should have a central role in preparing students for the workplace. Just as they’re active in teaching us marketable skills, they should be teaching us about how to negotiate fair pay and benefits.

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UMass Labor Center in Jeopardy

While the Murphy Institute establishes itself as a labor school, the state of labor education nationwide remains perilous. The latest news comes from the Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst: with the sudden departure this month of its director Eve Weinbaum, who has said the she was forced out of her position, plus the cutting of funding to the center, the future of the Center is now in question.

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An email from Weinbaum before Labor Day expressed dismay at the budget cuts and an appeal to the broader community to organize to ensure that the Center remains open. Since then, alumni and activists have been writing letters and making public appeals to keep funding in place for the Center.

From an article in Labor Notes:

It’s the latest blow in a volley against labor education programs. A 2015 report by Helena Worthen for the United Association for Labor Education found that in recent years, 34 of the 53 programs across the U.S. have either lost staff or outright disappeared.

The report identified right-wing think tanks like the Freedom Foundation and the Mackinac Center as key players in the drive to eliminate these programs, especially at public colleges and universities.

For more about the budget battle at Labor Notes and In These Times.

Photo by sushiesque via flickr (CC-BY-NC)