Today is a day of reflection and celebration of Dr. King’s life and work. Dr. King consistently supported the most marginalized, including workers of color. His message was our shared message - an injury to one is an injury to all. Near the end of his life, Dr. King was building a "poor people's movement" to fight for better living standards and working conditions for all, and he was killed in Memphis fifty-one years ago supporting striking African American sanitation workers who were demanding dignity and respect.
Today, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA-AFT) starts the second week of their strike for a fair contract. Those instructors did not want to strike. They wanted to keep teaching and otherwise supporting their students and the people of Los Angeles. But negotiations failed, and the agenda and the inflexibility of the school superintendent left them no choice but to withhold their labor. The stakes are high indeed. Los Angeles teachers are fighting back against a neoliberal corporate agenda that’s infiltrated our public schools and universities, turning education into a machine for profit at the expense of entire communities, especially communities of color.
Our union is currently in a similar struggle as we bargain for education, equity and security here at Rutgers. Our demands are simple. Faculty and grad workers are fighting to improve the learning conditions of our students. Hiring more tenure-track faculty and staff of color would benefit and reflect the student body we teach and the state we serve. Fair salaries and job security for contingent faculty and graduate employees and a $15 minimum wage and the right to a union for student workers would benefit everyone at Rutgers.
The UTLA strike is a watershed moment that will determine how institutions across the country respond to educators who resist this corporate model that’s taking over in our communities and our campuses. Our Executive Council passed a resolution of solidarity with UTLA and donated $500 to the Tacos for Teachers fund to feed hungry pickets. Please support striking LA teachers by posting a solidarity picture and sign on social media with #UTLAstrong. You can also contribute to the teachers taco fund here.
Finally, we want to take a moment to recognize two of our outstanding graduate student leaders, Sudip Bhattacharya and Maria Garth, who helped us craft this important message. Too often graduate work goes unrecognized and we should all take the time to lift up their contributions to our work and to the broader university community.