"Solidarity" A UCSD Professor On Why He Will Strike 9/24
|"Solidarity" A UCSD Professor On Why He Will Strike On September 24
The UC strike com. asked me this morning to write a short piece on 'solidarity'*
1331 33rd St
San Diego CA 92102
Many years ago in the faded Art Nouveaux splendor of a Gorbals (Glasgow) pub,
I met a man who told me an extraordinary story about his grandfather, a
coalminer who had been killed in a pit disaster before the First World War. A
methane explosion, followed by a roof collapse, had trapped his grandfather
and his mates deep in the mine, where they were eventually asphyxiated. When
rescuers reached their tomb days later, they found a final, defiant message
chiseled into the coalface: 'God save our union.'
The spirit of these doomed Scots miners isn't easily replicated in rational choice
models of social action. Nor can simple economic calculation explain the fervor
with which Lancashire cotton workers, whose wages depended upon Southern
cotton and the British domination of India, supported Lincoln and later Gandhi.
Likewise, from the 1934 San Francisco General Strike to Justice for Janitors in
the 1980s and 1990s, California working people have repeatedly translated their
passion for justice and dignity into the slogan 'an injury to one, is an injury to all.'
The labor and civil rights movements, to be sure, aren't fairy tales, and the
heroic moments are often counterbalanced by the petrification of militancy into
leaden bureaucracy and the selfish calibration of seniority. Solidarity is too
often an orphan. In our case, there are disheartening examples of the tenured
strata ignoring the recent picket-lines of catering workers, secretaries,
lecturers, and students.
UC faculty, indeed, are much like the residents of Jonathan Swift's city of Laputa:
distracted by their departmental micropolitics and the distribution of FTEs while
they float on a cloud above the existential distress of K-12 and community
education. The Senate faculty also must share responsibility with the Regents
for the system's transformation into a vast machine for the transformation of
public research into corporate profit. Most UC campuses now more resemble
gated communities than public temples of learning.
A lot of us have complained about this situation for years, but our discomfort
has seldom moved us to action. But the challenge is now epic-historic: equity
and justice are endangered at every level of the Master plan for Education.
Obscene wealth still sprawls across the coastal hills, but flat-land inner cities
and blue-collar interior valleys face the death of the California dream. Their
children - let's not beat around the bush - are being pushed out of higher
education. Their future is being cut off at its knees.
The September 24 strike movement, in my opinion, is most important because it
defends non-tenured employees and demands public disclosure of the Regents'
secret diplomacy. It is an elementary reflex of a progressive, humane
consciousness: an antidote to the staggering selfishness and elitism of Andrew
Scull and his Gang of 23.
A strike, by matching actions to words,, is also the highest form of teach-in.
This seed of resistance, of course, will only grow to maturity through cultivation
by unionized employees and students. They are the real constant gardeners,
and hopefully branches of a unified fight-back will quickly intertwine with the
parallel struggles of CSU, community college, K-12 and adult-education
The strike also provides a bully pulpit to counter the still widespread belief that
the UC system has a unique dispensation and can once again negotiate its own
special deal in Sacramento. Many of our colleagues are simply in denial. This
time around, the first-class passengers are in the same frigid water with the
kindergarten teachers and community college janitors.
The 24th is the beginning of learning how to shout in unison. And whatever the
outcome, it at allows us write our beliefs on the coalface.
* UPTE/CWA has voted to strike U.C. on September 24
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