As we come back from the break that (I hope) allowed us to recover after last semester’s intensity, I think it’s important for us as a union to reconnect to that feeling we had in mid-October–especially the Friday the strike ended. Those last couple of hours, when we knew, we could feel in our bones that it was almost over, were as powerful as anything I’ve ever been part of.
Among many important realizations I’ve come to as I’ve been able to think carefully about the strike, here’s the one I want to highlight the most given the turbulent political scene we’re walking back into–
During the strike, I heard virtually nobody say, “The union needs to _____.” Instead, I heard dozens of people ask, “How can I help?”
If you think the union should be doing something we aren’t, then let’s talk about how to make it happen. The likelihood of success, as we learned in October, goes up exponentially when we do the work together.
So next time you feel yourself starting to tell “the union” what “they” should do, take just a second before you do and ask, “How can I help do that?” Your odds of seeing positive results go up. The sense that we’re all working together gets maintained. The number of people participating in the daily practices of being a union goes up.
Remember what it felt like when we won? We can’t feel exactly like that all the time, but we can be in solidarity, feel the trust and care we showed on the lines, all the time. Ask what you can do to help. Then do it.
Spent much of today reading and writing about strike experiences with APSCUF siblings on Facebook. This piece was in an email, and it’s said so beautifully that I wanted to share it with everybody who reads the blog. What the writer doesn’t tell you is how willingly she gave hour after hour after hour doing any and everything that I or anyone else asked, and knowing what needed doing even when nobody else did.
With permission from Tina Chiarelli-Helminiak:
Over the past week, I had the great opportunity to witness amazing union solidarity, in addition to superb community organizing. I am in awe of the support from our students, their parents, and so many others.
I also had a unique vantage point as I may be the only person who visited every picket site on the West Chester campus as well as the Philadelphia campus location. Each picket site had its own personality! From the street party in Philly to the athletic training on South campus, to the few but strong on Carter Drive, to the festival in front of Philips to the jokesters on New St (how many PhDs does it take to set up an EZ-Up?!?). I am so very fortunate to have served as witness to these scenes.
The preparations leading up to and the three days on strike provided us, as educators, with the opportunity to model for our students what it looks like to advocate for social and economic justice and workers’ rights. We put into practice some of the very skills we attempt to teach in the classroom. We also modeled the importance for advocating for ourselves. Yet, this opportunity was more than anything that I, personally, could have taught my students inside the classroom.
During our 3 days on strike I missed classes, office hours, meetings, and a whole lot of sleep. But during our 67 hours on strike I gained so much more! I have never been more proud to be an alumnus and faculty member of the PA state system. I am even more committed to my union.
So, in sum, thank you for being a part of this process. I am forever your colleagues, your fan, your friend, and your union sister.
🙂 Tina Chiarelli-Helminiak, MSW, PhD
Graduate Social Work Department
Proud product of public education from HeadStart to PhD