I didn’t make it out to…

I didn't make it out to the picket line yesterday -- I was sick, and spent much of the day in bed. I'm hoping it doesn't come to a real, open-ended strike -- if it does, I suspect we'll be hauling ourselves out there even when we're sick. Kevin did go again, and hurt his foot walking; a colleague of mine managed to throw out her back carrying her picket sign. Aging academics are maybe not your ideal strike walkers.

But from what I hear, we had a lot of grad student support; their contract (won after a strike) doesn't allow them to strike with us, but I think that just means they still have to teach their classes. The youngsters can still show up to rallies and picket lines, and shout and cheer, and many of them did. Many of our undergrads did too, which was incredibly sweet of them.

It's surprisingly heartening -- when we were driving home on Tuesday after picketing, we passed a bunch of young people holding picket signs, and when we honked in support, driving past, they let out a mighty cheer that we could easily hear from inside the car, with the windows closed. I'm such a newcomers to protest actions -- I had no idea how heartening such things can be. If you're driving by a strike group you support, please do honk. It actually helps.

Apparently, the ABC News TV clip with me aired again in the evening, but I still haven't managed to find a clip online -- sorry! Not sure if it's online. Kevin reported back that a few more colleagues mentioned seeing me on tv, and they seemed to think I did a reasonably good job, whew! It's not easy -- if this continues, I think I'm actually going to spend some time practicing delivering a few relevant pieces of information in sound-bite form. This is a PR battle, as much as anything else -- if we're going to succeed, we need to win the hearts and minds of the public, or at least enough of the public to put pressure on the university administrationand if necessary, the Illinois legislature.

Academics are not good at PR! We're good at long, drawn-out, reasoned and nuanced and careful discussion of complex issues. Which is pretty much the opposite of what you need to do when a tv news camera is pointing in your face. We're also not good at rallies and chants -- thank god they had a few professional union people who were helping us with the chants during the picketing, because if you left it up to professors to come up with catchy slogans and shout them into a bullhorn -- well, it would be sad. As it is, we get self-conscious and start engaging in Socratic dialogues with each other as we march around hauling our picket signs -- what do we *really* mean we we talk about.oh hush. Now is not the time.

One of the speakers at the rally was talking about the differences in pay between the Champaign-Urbana campus, out in a mostly white town, compared to our Chicago campus, which is much more diverse. He was arguing that the noticeably pay difference between the two campuses wasn't accidental, that it was directly because there were more white workers at the other campus. Which is an interesting argument to think about, and I don't know how much that's true, and I'd like to see some numbers and more data before I came to any real decisions on it, and that's how professors think about this stuff. When he finished talking, a student shouted loudly, "Down with racism!" and the professors gave a half-hearted cheer. Because of course we're against racism, but. As Kevin said, "I don't think I can shout 'down with racism' with a straight face." Indeed.

The next round of negotiations is on Friday. If they don't go better, we may have to learn how to shout.

Get up! Get down! Chicago is a union town!

I'm going to go listen to NPR's 5 minute coverage of the strike. I hear it's good.

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