I am going on strike because this is my twentieth year in the classroom and I am on step four at my university because the state system 1) did not see any “connection” between my other years of teaching and my teaching at KU and 2) refused to negotiate a contract with us once already during my 7 years at KU (we call it “the year that never was”).
I am going on strike because I am connecting with my past. My family’s labor at Mack and Bethlehem Steel was constantly battered at by corporations looking for cheaper labor in non-union states and nations. Their skill was belittled by executives looking to save a few bucks. The UAW (United Auto Workers) magazines of my childhood home in Allentown may now have been replaced by AAUW (American Association of University Women) mailings in my household, but that sentiment of solidarity and commitment to my work is a lineage I refuse to deny in myself.
I am going to strike because I want to be the best teacher I can be to other first-generation students like Kayla, who has learned that the academy can be a place for her to learn more about who she wants to become. (Seriously, go read her piece. It is the reason we are doing what we do every day.) I want to not be mocked by the system I work for; I want the work I do to be valued, not belittled. And that means in words and in pay.
I am going on strike because I still have the penny a child threw at me while hanging out of the window of his mother’s car on my refrigerator. When I taught high school, I was a strike captain for a ten-day strike. This child yelled, “Get back to work, assholes!” while an adult (I assume is his mother) drove him slowly by our line.
I am going on strike because I never want my daughter to do that same thing.
Here’s me during my first year at KU talking about why I joined the union…