Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Elizabeth Faue


“I’ve Always Had a Voice, Now I Want to Use It”: The Working Women’s Movement and Clerical Unionism in Higher Education, examines the intersection of the labor movement and the women’s movement through the working lives and organizing of clerical workers in higher education in the United States beginning in the 1970s. Through an examination of UAW, SEIU, AFSCME, District 65, and AFT clerical organizing campaigns in higher education, I contend that women found their lack of collective bargaining power in the higher education workplace limited their effectiveness. Working women’s organizations and clericals in higher education, dealing with university budgetary constraints, stagnant wages, and a reorganization of work, further sought to address their problems through unionism. As clericals reached out to unions, unions, faced with increasing hostility, declining membership, and the devastating impact of deindustrialization, entered the largely unorganized clerical sector, to save themselves and the labor movement. Unions had to adopt new and diverse organizing styles to meet the new constituency. The women’s movement had a tremendous impact on the labor movement’s efforts in this sector, including the style of organizing, what workplaces would serve as targets for new organizing campaigns, and what issues unions should prioritize in campaigns and contracts.

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