Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Abigail Boggs

Major

College of Social Studies

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

This thesis studies the figure of the “student worker,” tracing its history, analyzing its conditions, and reviewing a case of student worker organization. It explores how undergraduates who work on-campus at elite, four-year nonprofit colleges and universities unionize, identifying constraints on their organization and influences on their tactics. Since 2016, it has legally been possible for student workers at private universities to be recognized within a union and there is a growing movement of undergraduate workers how have tried to unionize. One can see the emergence of class and worker identity as these student workers organize, because these identities form through workers’ movement and mobilization. I study the history of student workers, theorize the university as a company town and create a history and case study of the Reed student worker union. As this thesis examines the figure of the student worker, it follows two related themes: the antagonism between militancy and politics of civility or compromise, and the methods and modalities of identity formation. It offers both practical organizing strategies and theorizations of work and the worker.

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