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Toward Abolitionist Unionism: Resisting Pandemics, Police, and Academic Austerity at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

By Chelsea Birchmier, Austin Hoffman, Logan Middleton, A. Naomi Paik, and Angela Ting

Abstract:

This essay argues that abolitionist struggle is necessary to preserve academic freedom and combat the increasing austerity measures and carceral logics of the neoliberal university. Drawing on our example organizing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we examine how campus labor organizations like the Graduate Employees’ Organization, UIUC’s graduate worker union, can enact abolitionist practices of mutual aid and demands for police divestment. The union’s commitment to social justice and coalitional organizing has enabled the emergence of DefundUIPD, a campus movement that stands against structures of violence like policing and for life-affirming institutions. Amid widespread academic precarity, this nationally growing movement exemplifies the radical potential of organized labor to evolve from social justice unionism to abolitionist unionism. Abolitionist unionism not only promotes a more liberatory and expansive vision of academic freedom but necessarily struggles for and against the university alongside movements for radical social change.

View the entire article "Toward Abolitionist Unionism: Resisting Pandemics, Police, and Academic Austerity at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign."

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