Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor

A grassroots coalition of activists in North America working for contingent faculty: adjunct, part-time, non-tenured, and graduate teaching faculty. We seek to bring greater awareness to the precarious situation for contingent faculty in higher education, organize for action, and build solidarity among our colleagues.


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Political Declaration of COCAL X
Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor
Mexico City, August 9-12, 2012

We, the contingent academic workers from Mexico, Canada, Québec and the United States convening in Mexico City in 2012, and our friends and colleagues who support our ideals, hereby declare the following:

Humanity faces the effects of severe environmental degradation, growing inequality, and worldwide social, political and economic distress.  These dire circumstances demand of us that we marshal our collective intelligence so as to find solutions. The university, along with labor unions, political parties and the media, is central to constructing a democratic future that can meet this challenge. We are committed to working toward this end with our many like-minded colleagues and comrades, united in the conviction that, to the extent that our institutions are the servants of corporate neoliberal elites, they must be rebuilt.

As academic workers of higher education in North America, we find ourselves in precarious working conditions due to the damaging effects that three decades of neoliberal policies have had on the living and working conditions of the majority of workers and on social welfare in general.  Within academia, specifically, these policies have disempowered faculty, created an expanded and well-compensated administrative class to manage the machinery of the higher education regime, and branded students as customers and consumers.  Overall, these policies have had pernicious effects, resulting in the gradual privatization of educational spaces, the commercialization of teaching and support services, and the restriction of enrollment and research, to the benefit of the privileged without consideration for the social needs of the majority. Millions of young people around the world—particularly from poor and working classes—are being denied access to a free, quality education and to its promise of individual and collective emancipation.

Around the world, students, workers and others who seek justice and freedom have begun to proactively and energetically resist the continuation of these neoliberal policies. We who represent upwards of seventy per cent of academic workers and whose precarious working conditions—rather than isolated cases—represent a new normal, consider ourselves the new higher education political actors and stand in solidarity with them.  We declare ourselves in permanent struggle to change these conditions and convene at COCAL X to express our commitment and obligation to democracy and the common good embraced and articulated in our nations’ constitutions as well as in agreements signed before international bodies such as the UN and UNESCO. We advocate for the development and implementation of educational and social policies and practices that respect “the common standard of achievement for all people and all nations” articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, rejecting a state-centric understanding of rights, calls on all the nations of the world to agree that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

This 10th Conference of COCAL is a time for us to reflect upon the trajectory that has characterized our coalition during its sixteen years of existence, as well as to deepen and improve coordination, cooperation and solidarity among academic workers, unions and associations of higher education in and beyond North America.  We do so with solemn understanding of the responsibility of higher education in the development of democratic possibilities founded on respect for universal human rights.  In this spirit, we will always seek international unity and solidarity with other sectors of workers and the independent and democratic organizations that represent them, as an important element in the struggle for a better and more just world for all the inhabitants of our planet.

Thus, we, the contingent academic workers from México, Canada, Québec, and the United States convening at COCAL X, issue this Political Declaration in order to make it known among the peoples of our nations and to call upon them to work with us toward a common goal: the expansion of social and democratic rights in education and in welfare for all humans, within and beyond our national borders.

We, the undersigned, hereby affirm it.