From the Picket Line to the Classroom: Lessons Learned

On the second day of our strike the principal came down to speak to the picketers. She said that the students were taking exams and asked us if we could keep the noise down. She understood why we were there and supported our strike but was acting in the best interest of her children. We told her we would do our best under the circumstances.

Later that day she brought down letters of support from the students and had one of the classes join the picket line. The students asked our members why we were on strike and what we were protesting.  After the question and answers were done they crossed the street back to the school chanting, “CWA!!!” In the following days the students in the school came by the picket line to show their support with fists raised and kind words.
Yesterday one of the teachers came down and asked if we could address a senior economics class which was starting a unit on labor. We were supposed to talk to one class but were so well received we spent the whole day there, visiting six different classes discussing why we were on strike and what we hoped to gain.

Along with fellow Chief Steward John Henry and Stewards Tommy Carpenter and Alex Ortiz, we spent the whole day going over CWA history and the events that led up to our strike. The students were extremely interested and asked great questions. By the end of the day there was a buzz going around the school that the guys with the bullhorns were teaching a class. One of the teachers said a student described the discussion as “awesome”.

I walked into that school assuming the students didn’t care about what was going on outside their windows. I assumed they were just trying to get a break from the guy with the bullhorn by getting me into a classroom and off the picket line. We taught them about our history and our struggle.  But the truth is those students taught me more than I could have taught them. I learned today’s youth does care about what’s going on around them and that many of these kids come from middle-income families with parents in unions, some even on strike with us. I learned that they’re concerned with the state of labor and the future of this country. Our future seemed a little brighter, with young men and women like those I met today becoming the leaders of tomorrow. Thanks for the lesson.