As the new term was kicking off in late September, rank-and-file members of the faculty, professional staff, and classified staff unions came together to protest against budget cuts and layoffs at community colleges in Seattle, Washington. The demonstration was held at the same time as the management sponsored convocation ceremony for the coming school year, and was appropriately called “A Workers Counter-Convocation.”
Faculty clearly laid out the run-the-schools-like-a-business agenda of the colleges’ administration. Students spoke in gritty detail of their difficulties obtaining services to enroll, as well as getting the courses they need, because of drastic staff reductions and cuts to academic programs. I spoke as a college maintenance technician and veteran Washington Federation of State Employees shop steward. That impromptu speech is below.
Speakers exposed management’s hollow so-called commitment to diversity and inclusion. And showed the truth of how the administrators targeted women, people of color, and immigrant workers with layoffs.
All attendees drew inspiration from the heart-felt solidarity between staff and academic workers, and they left with determination to build upon that power.
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“Up at North Seattle College all the same things are happening with student services and layoffs that are happening here that people are talking about. And the administrators are talking about 25% cuts to our budget. And, of course, it’s coming out of the staff, the faculty and the part-time faculty especially, I am sure. And with cuts in programs and services. They already closed down our food services. Well, yeah, there’s your equity right there. Of course, it’s all women, people of color and immigrants, right, and that is what they mean by equity. I am glad to see the students and our sister faculty union come together with the staff union.
“And I really agree with what Zahra said about progressive taxation. We need to adequately fund all services. I mean we gotta unite and go down to Olympia [the state capitol]. I am a delegate to the Labor Council and we were just talking about that. Somebody brought a resolution from a city union that we need progressive taxation. We got to all go together to Olympia and demand it.
“The state can fix this budget crisis by taxing the heck out of Boeing and Amazon and all these companies. Jeff Bezos made $30 billion extra on top of the $100 billion he already had just since the beginning of the pandemic. The rich people, the billionaires, are getting richer than ever in this pandemic. And working people all over the world are suffering this austerity and they have been for years, and now it’s coming here to Seattle. And you know the ridiculously rich just get more ridiculously rich.
“What we need is to build solidarity. And that solidarity needs to become a mighty river that knows no borders. And that fights for all working people. And we need to go down to Olympia at the beginning of the next session and we need to put the fear of rebellion into those legislators. Out-and-out, unified, universal working-class rebellion. That’s what we need. We need to tell them it’s time you tackled just about the most regressive unfair tax system in the nation. It’s not like there’s not something you can do about it. We got two of the richest dudes in the universe right here in this state, it’s not like there is not something you can do about it. Right. So, we’re here, all together, and we are not going to go away until you do something about it. We need the money now so we can fund childcare for everyone who needs it. Childcare is in a crisis now. We need to fund jobs programs to put everybody to work. We don’t leave nobody behind. Right. The Chancellor and the administration they are leaving us behind and they are keeping theirs. Well, we got that bone to pick with them and I am glad we are doing it.
“I think if we are bold enough and united enough as a working class we can leave nobody behind. And we can get some justice and we can get things working people need. It’s just going to take us working together. I am so glad everybody came here today. It’s the beginning of something we can really build upon.”
The author is a member of Washington Federation of State Employees Local 304, which he represents on the Martin Luther King Jr County Labor Council. Send questions and comments to: email@example.com.