A strike is a time to be brave
From a tenure-track, probationary faculty member at Green River College who wishes to remain anonymous.
It is currently Day 2 of a three-day planned strike by the faculty at my school. It’s 3:30 a.m. I’m poring over the news coverage of the strike, reading comments on social media made by students and community members, and tears are hitting my keyboard at a rate so alarming that I may need to buy a new one.
Striking is hard. It’s exhausting. It’s also overwhelmingly humbling.
I’m a probationary faculty member at Green River College; we are striking for retaliatory, unfair labor practices, so I’m keeping my name here anonymous, but this is the thing about striking: the fear is overtaken by the incredible sense of community shown to those who strike.
Take yesterday, for example. We had four different areas of organized picketing. People were driving by and honking, giving us donuts, putting signs in their car windows, and bringing us coffee and water. There was an abundance of smiles and hugs. Students — our beloved students! — came to join us on the picket line and flooded social media with support for our cause and outrage that the administration is staying their course and allowing our president to continue down a path that has caused faculty, students, staff, and the community to say ENOUGH.
My own students know what is going on. You cannot hide a crisis this big from them, and who would want to? It’s a real-life lesson in critical thinking and civic engagement. They are overwhelmingly supportive and send me messages telling me to keep going. They know very well that I’m putting my career — this career I’ve fought long and hard for — at serious risk.
They are aware that I may well be fired.
If I am, I know that I’ve gone down swinging and fighting so their school is the place of education they deserve. They found me yesterday on the picket line and brought me cards, proudly showed me their handmade signs, and asked what they could do to help. They care for me and are scared for me, and I’m so proud of them.
I am humbled beyond words. Again.
And that is the takeaway here — that is the lesson. Once you get to this point — to a point of walking out on your students, those beautiful souls who are the entire reason you are here, so that maybe they can have a better environment and so their programs won’t be cut — fear no longer matters. It’s not even a thing. The fear has been so pervasive for so long — five years for us! — that it’s not a lever any longer.
A strike is a time to be brave because all around, you see people being even braver than you. Adjuncts who have no contract next quarter, students and staff who could well be targeted, are out there showing their solidarity with us.