Four years ago today was the middle of my third month on the job. We got our warm clothes on and walked out. It wasn’t quite as cold as it is today, but it was pretty darn cold.
Why did I go out on strike in 2004? I admired and trusted the faculty and staff of this university, unconditionally, from the day I interviewed.
The assault on public higher education that we are currently neck deep in had just begun back then. But a group of “like-minded people” in those early stages already knew the quality of our work was not being recognized.
The quality of our teaching–not just our compensation for it–and our ability to serve the wonderful “niche market” that has made this institution great is under attack now. We’ll talk about that and our next steps forward tomorrow at 3:00 in Golden Eagles.
We had a fantastic group of students supporting us too, and it has been a delight to watch and see how successful they have been.
I want to pick out a few of our members and UPI Local 4100 supporters for special thanks: Ed Hunt, Terry Schuepfer, Patrice Stearley (Picket Captain Extraordinaire), Jamie Daniel, BarBara Scott, Sue Kaufman, the 2004 NEIU/UPI Executive Board and the 2004 Negotiations Team. We were often visited by the Teamsters Support Vehicle and a crew of folks pouring out of it. Thanks too to the Chicago Federation of Labor for their support, and to all members of the AFL/CIO. Thanks to the many retirees and alumni from NEIU who came out to support us, and thanks to Charles Delman EIU/UPI Chapter President and Laurie Walter CSU/UPI Chapter President who walked the line with us. Thanks to Ellie Sullivan, then Secretary/Treasurer at the Local, who secured strike loans for our people in record time.
I also want to thank my mentors during those first few fast-moving months at my new job: Suzanne Gaskins, Sarah Hoagland, Ellen Cannon, Jeff Hill, Uma Patel, Dan Milsky, Lesa Davis, Erica Meiners, David Leaman and Russell Benjamin.
In solidarity and with the warmest heart, thinking about our union then and thinking about our union today.
From Our Strike Diva of 2004, Patrice Stearley:
Oh my! So many memories you have nudged forward, Sophia …
I remember opening the strike office for the 1st time at 6:00am on that morning while it was still dark, seeing the Chicago police detail (lights flashing) in place around the university entrances, and thinking “Ok, here we go!!” And go we did!! It was a cold, difficult, proud, inspiring, and sometimes hilarious time. And through it all we were united, determined, and courageous.
Each of us has our time and place. As you continue through your current negotiations remember those who went before you (we’re cheering you on), those who will follow after you (they will be grateful to you) and the university you want to create. Then step up and do your part.
Go boldly in solidarity!