First Advisor

Rachel Halfrida Cunliffe

Term of Graduation

Summer 2020

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Conflict Resolution


Conflict Resolution




Labor unions and education -- United States, Universities and colleges -- Employees -- Labor unions -- United States, Peace-building, Industrial relations, Neoliberalism



Physical Description

1 online resource (xv, 157 pages)


Unionized contingent faculty in the United States face an increasingly difficult economic landscape in their labor-management conflicts with university administrations. These unions, comprised of graduate student employees and adjunct instructors, won significant victories for their members but have failed to shift the broader patterns of casualization, unsustainable compensation, and job precarity, stemming from the systemic debasement of higher education institutions and the American labor movement, both of which pose significant challenges to conventional conflict resolution strategies. To find a path forward, this thesis explores the nature and possibility of transforming of the academic labor conflict, using a transformative peacebuilding approach to identify the underlying forces driving the current discord and creating a framework to affect long-term, constructive change. Analysis of the literature surrounding higher education and organized labor revealed the hegemonic influence of neoliberalism as the systemic force driving the conflict. This thesis answers that system with the Systems Ecology Framework of Transformative Care, a schema that combines the transformative peacebuilding framework, ethics of care, and a socio-ecological model for union organizing to contextually reduce the harm caused by neoliberalism and increase justice for stakeholders in the academy. It closes by offering recommendations for union strategy and further applications for conflict transformation in complex social conflicts.


© 2020 Sam Frazier Hediger.

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