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UCLA Workers Set to Strike, Hurting Academia’...

UCLA Workers Set to Strike, Hurting Academia’s “Leftist Hellscape” Image

Negotiations between the University of California and Teamsters Local 2010 have reached an impasse, and skilled trade workers will be on strike until Tuesday, with clerical workers at a similar deadlock over wages. The university contends that its proposed wage increase is market-competitive, but the union disagrees.

Personally, I tend to reflexively defend academia because many of the attacks on it come from right-wingers angry that some history departments don’t think colonialism was awesome or that students read mostly dead white guys instead of exclusively dead white guys. A lot of what the ivory tower stands for is a worthwhile critique of power. But academia itself is a power structure, and individual schools are employers who can take advantage of labor as easily as any business. The impending strike is a reminder of that.

I don’t know what the competitive wages are for skilled trade or clerical workers in California, and I don’t know if either side in this dispute is being patently unreasonable. But as the University of California hikes its tuition without paying its employees an unambiguous fair share, it’s clear that education isn’t always on the side of the underdog.

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In a perfect world, I’d be a professor who teaches poetry using episodes of mediocre sci-fi procedurals, but for now, I’m just a tutor who watches a lot of TV. I got my BA from Kalamazoo College in English with a focus on creative writing, and someday soon I’d like to go back to academia.

Most of my formal teaching training was as a creative writing TA, but I’ve used those skills professionally more to tutor math and write data entry training materials. And though I’d like to focus my work on what I’m really passionate about (which is Netflix binges and outdated video games, mostly), it’s the craft of teaching and writing that keeps me coming back. That’s why I’m excited to be a part of High Faluter: I’m finding that academia doesn’t just stay in academia. And if I can bring crappy midbrow entertainment into academia too, well, all the better. You can find me on Twitter: @StewartFinnegan