The Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor is a loose network of activists involved in contingent faculty issues. Its primary functions are to share information, educate our colleagues and the public, and build solidarity among the scattered ranks of faculty activists.
COCAL has organized a listserve, a website, a Facebook page, a series of conferences, and Campus Equity Week, a week of coordinated activity also known as Fair Employment Week. COCAL has also inspired the organization of one statewide, one regional, and several metropolitan coalitions, including those in California, and Chicago.
COCAL has no regular staff, budget, or constitution, and it is governed by a shifting steering committee of volunteers that is constituted according to the task at hand. Funds are raised and staff hired as needs arise.
The independent and grassroots character of COCAL and its reliance on local autonomy are central to its unique role in advancing the interests of faculty and defending the quality and integrity of higher education. The principle of local autonomy is an effective way for dealing with the wide variations that exist in conditions, political traditions, and language. Local autonomy means that the extent to which different COCAL-related organizations participate in COCAL initiatives varies greatly. It is up to each organization to determine its own style and emphasis.
One of COCAL's most important accomplishments has been the emergence of an international leadership able to develop and exchange organizing strategies, contract language, and political insights. Organizing contingent workers is extremely challenging because the conditions of contingent labor inhibit a visible community of interest from developing. A few years ago, faculty activists often labored in isolation with few sources of information and a limited conception of what was possible or desirable.
COCAL has become one way that contingent faculty have created new forms of solidarity to compensate for what is often lacking in the workplace. Now a victory in Canada or Michigan or California is a victory for the entire movement and a learning opportunity for all of us.
The tenth conference of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL X) was held August 9-12, 2012 in Mexico City. Topics included Health care, social security, and retirement benefits; organizing and union rights; Political and cultural rights; issues of diversity; relationships with students, administrators, and other campus workers; and more. You can download a flier from COCAL X here and read more about the event on the COCAL website.
The ninth conference of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor took place August 13-15, 2010, in Quebec City. The conference was a great opportunity for contingent faculty and their allies to strategize and learn from one another. For more information, see the COCAL International website.
The eighth conference of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL VIII) took place August 8-10, 2008, at San Diego State University. (See the agenda.)
August 10-13, 2006, contingent faculty activists in Vancouver hosted the seventh conference of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor. The conference, attended by more than 200 contingent faculty members and activists, offered an opportunity to mingle, organize, and learn from one another.
The sixth COCAL conference, COCAL VI, was held in 2004 in Chicago. A story about the conference, "Contingent Labor Conference Grades Institutions," appeared in the November-December 2004 issue of Academe.
Links and Resources:
Subscribe to the COCAL listserv (also known as ADJ-L).
COCAL International website.
More about Campus Equity Week
Download a request for donations