Evergreen strike day ends strong – and delivered a wake-up call to us all



LR52813.3Hundreds remained to close out the 14-hour strike day at The Evergreen State College Tuesday in support of a fair contract for Student Support Services Staff Union members.

By now you’ve read the press reports and social media. Go to our website at www.wfse.org to view a flickr photo stream from the day, see video highlights and link to media reports (under STRIKE UPDATES).

No actions took place today, but others are planned. Mediation could continue. Stay tuned.

Strikers hoped they struck a chord with the college administration. Regardless, they hit a home run that rejuvenated our movement.

Bailey

Bailey

“Thank you for being part of history,” Bargaining Team member Courtney Bailey said at the open of Tuesday’s strike rally.

Mahmood

Mahmood

“What happens here with this group of workers extends beyond this campus,” said co-emcee Reaz Mahmood, another bargaining team member. “There are implications that will play out for years to come.”

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Eberhardt

“This is a really beautiful sea of support,” said Bargaining Team member Jean Eberhardt as she looked out over the strike rally crowd of 300 co-workers, faculty members of United Faculty at Evergreen, classified staff, Federation members from Olympia Local 443, UW Local 1488, Tacoma Local 53, Everett CC Local 1020, Seattle CC Local 304, Fircrest School Local 341, Seattle ES Local 435, retirees, students, Students Against Sweat Shops, the Washington Public Employees Association/UFCW, the United Auto Workers, Jobs With Justice, just to name a few.

“We could not do this without you. We’re a small bargaining unit of 55 people. We may be frontline to students. And we may provide an indispensable role on this campus, but we could not do this without you.”

Local 443 contributed up to $50,000 for the strike, with Local 1488’s $20,000 and Local 53’s $5,000. The United Faculty pledged their entire Solidarity Fund.

Leslie Johnson

Leslie Johnson

“I really think they (the administration) thought they could split us apart, to separate the students and separate the unions and pit us against each other and that’s not what happened,” said Leslie Johnson, another bargaining team member.

“Look what happened,” she said to the cheering crowd.

Meeker

Meeker

“Word of the day is, ‘Solidarity,’” said Laurie Meeker of the United Faculty of Evergreen (UFE), whose Kelly-green “Solidarity” signs complemented the Federation’s red “ON STRIKE!” signs.

 

Goss

Goss

“You really matter,” student graduation speaker Elissa Goss said of the Student Support Services Staff.

“In all the four years I’ve been here, every single week, one of these staff members has impacted my academic career, my personal career,” Goss added.

Dotlich (with WFSE/AFSCME Sec. Judy Kuschel and VP Sue Henricksen)

Dotlich (with WFSE/AFSCME Sec. Judy Kuschel and VP Sue Henricksen)

“This really is a war,” Federation President Carol Dotlich said. “It’s a war on the workers and it’s a war we unions must win.”

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson

“When you stand up for your rights, you stand up for the rights of everyone,” said Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council.

Alberg

Alberg

Local 443 president and Evergreen alum Thornton Alberg voiced mix feelings.

“It’s sad to be here to support something that should already be here…,” he said. “I’m sad to be here, but I’m proud to see all the support.”

Evergreen postscript 1: “It was a miracle”

 

Drummond

Drummond

Judy Drummond, an Evergreen classified staff member of Local 443, described how being in a unit with a contract underscores why the Student Support Services Staff Union should have the same rights.

“When I came to Evergreen eight years ago, something magical happened,” Drummond said at Tuesday’s strike day rally at The Evergreen State College.

“All I had to do was sign a union card and all of a sudden, I had all of these great privileges and great benefits and fantastic protections that I never had any place that I worked before.

“And I just could not believe that when I was at my new employee orientation, I felt so foolish because everyone routinely signed their card and I started crying because it was just a miracle to me that all I had to do was sign a card and I had financial step increases, I had just cause and most importantly I had a voice at the table for the first time in my life, that when decisions were made, there was someone there looking out for me. It was a miracle.”

Evergreen Postscript 2: Legislature never far away

Reykdal

Reykdal

Hours before Tuesday’s Evergreen strike rally, Rep. Chris Reykdal of the 22nd Dist. stopped by the strike line to thank the picketers – and surprisingly, accept some of the blame on behalf of legislators.

“This is what the Labor Movement is about,” Reykdal said. “This is how we get resolution. This is how you keep other workers who aren’t even union from being stepped on when they know that there are people who are willing to take the risk and grab a picket sign and walk the line.”

But he speculated that the union and administration could agree on one issue:

“The bigger issue is the failure of my colleagues in the Legislature,” Reykdal said. “You can’t go a decade and not pay people a comparable living adjustment. You can’t go this long and jeopardize an institution like this through cuts and expect students to make up the difference and not have conflict in raising tuition and compensating the people who get students through the system. We have built a conflict. We have built an inherent crisis in this state.”

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