The center of the campus was a carnival atmosphere both days of the strike, as crowds of more than 700 grads and supporters shouted out their slogans: “Who are we? GEO? Are we gonna back down? Hell, no!” Not even the rain could dampen the enthusiasm of the strikers.
The strike was a blow to an administration that has been pounded with negative publicity this year as a result of a ‘clout scandal’ in which both the president and the chancellor were forced to resign. The scandal involved the children of the wealthy and politically connected gaining admission despite low grades and test scores.
The threat against the tuition waivers was the issue that seemed to capture the mood of the graduate workers. Illinois has the second worst state budget crisis in the country, after California. The politicians and officials have come up with one attack after another to balance the budget crisis on the backs of those least able to afford it. Going after tuition waivers backfired, as even the American Association of University Professors weighed in to warn the university that they were undermining their attraction to high quality grads. But it was the fighting spirit and creativity of the GEO that made this strike happen.
The terms of victory were more than just defending the tuition waivers and included two weeks of unpaid parental leave, more money from the school’s contribution to health care premiums, and 10% in raises over three years. The victory serves as a bench mark and an inspiration especially for union workers employed by the state.
The union included in their press statement support for their “sisters and brothers in the Graduate Employees’ Organization at the University of Illinois Chicago campus,” and for other higher education workers. They concluded, “Public higher education must be accessible to all, regardless of economic standing.”
The strike was also only the fourth strike nationwide of more than 1000 persons in 2009. Most of ‘Big Labor,’ with its billions of dollars of assets and six figure executive salaries refuses to fight. Examples like the GEO, the Republic Windows and Doors workers and the SK Hand Tool Workers all show that unions can beat back attacks if they dare to struggle.
- Demonstration in Geneva with 250 people; good spirit and noisy. After the protest they attempted to occupy a lecture hall, but the majority inside the hall reject to squat it.
For thursday [Nov.19th] a big plenary meeting is planned!
- 300 – 400 people began to occupy a lecture hall at the University of Bern.
- 500 students in Zürich began to occupy a lecture hall today, after staging a “Bologna kindergarten” in front of the uni. All seminars inside the largest lecture hall of the university were cancelled in advance by the administration as a measure to prevent students from squatting a space.
[Students in Basel have been squatting lecture halls at their university for the past few days already.]
- 90,000 lecturers, pupils, students, parents and workers across Germany protested against the increasing commercialisation and privatisation (as well as the implmentation of the “Bologna Process”) today.
- 3,000 protesters on a demonstration in Essen; police attacks demonstration:154 temporary arrests [lerex.de]
- Further demonstrations took place in the following cities (with the number of protesters in brackets): Aachen (2,000; pix), Wiesbaden (10,000), Berlin (25,000; youtube.com), Heidelberg (2,500), Munich (10,000), Mainz (3,000), Darmstadt (500), Osnabrück (2,000; pix), Düsseldorf (4,000), Potsdam (1,000), Jena (1,500), Bonn (2,500), Bochum (700), Hannover (1,000), Cologne (3,000, pix), Regensburg (1,000), Freiburg (5,000; report), Karlsruhe (500), Duisburg/Essen (3,000) and Nürnberg (5,000) = a total of ~ 83,200 protesters
- Lecture halls were occupied by students today in Germany at the following institutions: College of Education in Weingarten, Georg-Simon-Ohm University of Applied Sciences (Erlangen; pix), University of Nürnberg-Erlangen (largest lecture hall “Audimax” in Erlangen), University of Applied Sciences in Kaiserslautern, University of Bonn [but evicted by police force shortly after tonight; pix], University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, University of Augsburg [pix], University of Erfurt, University of Münster [re-occupied after eviction on Nov.6th], University of Jena [although police was using pepper spray on campus], Academy of Fine Arts in Nürnberg, University of Passau, University of Paderborn, University of Cologne, University of Tübingen [re-occupied after eviction on Nov.11th], University of Trier, Otto-Friedrich University of Bamberg, University of Karlsruhe, University of Siegen, Technical University of Braunschweig and Academy of Arts in Braunschweig
- Strike continued at the University of Illinois: uigeo.org
- Universities in California (especially UC Berkeley) got ready for the strike beginning on Nov.18th: ucstrike.com – aucwithoutstudents.wordpress.com
Democracy Now! also reports: youtube.com
- Message recieved by email earlier today:
“This is just to let you know that there was a student demonstration and rally protesting state budget cuts to education and tuition hikes at the City College of New York today. Sponsoring organization was Students Educational Rights.”
- Further reports from other cities are expected soon.
- According to Unione degli Studenti (UdS) 150,000 pupils and students in more than 50 cities across Italy took to the streets to protest education reforms and the increasing commercialisation and privatisation of public education.
- The following list of cities (and number of protesters in brackets) was published by UdS: Rome (10,000), Turin (15,000), Genoa (5,000), Naples (10,000), Bari (7,000), Lecce (2,000), Florence (3,000), Cosenza (3,000), Salerno (8,000) and many other cities.
- News report on protests in Milan and Turin [in Italian]: youtube.com
- Various groups united under the name “Gerbang Revolusi Makassar” protesting during a demonstration together in Makassar (South Sulawesi).
- Reports from other cities in Indonesia are expected soon!
- 2,000 people gathered at a rally in Vienna.
There were general assemblies in more than 20 institutions within the University of Vienna.
Apparently close to 300,000 people gathered across Europe to protest for free and emancipatory public education!
- Smaller protest actions took place in various other cities like Linz, Innsbruck and Graz [setting up huge banners; street theatre (auctioning lecturers; pix), disrupting a meeting of local politicians and distributing leaflets, presenting demands during a cabaret show].
- Pupils in more than 26 cities across France were involved in Demonstrations. Close to 3.000 high schools were involved.
- The following list of cities (and number of protesters in brackets) was published by “Front de Lutte pour l’Education“: Rouen (1,000), Grenoble (500), Rennes (400), Quimper (250), Dimard (150), and many more. Further details are expected soon.
- Bigger protests are expected on Nov.24th, when students and pupils unite in their actions.
- The following report was sent in by mail:
“At Gdansk University today (17.11) a rally was held to celebrate the International Student’s Day and to protest against changes planned by the government. The proposed changes include further cuts on education spenditure, introduction of official corporate sponsorship over public education facilities, and extending tuition fees (now in function only for extramurals) onto s.c. stationary studies. The rally was concieved by Democratic Students Association and was joined by anarchist students from the OKUPE Comitee and other supporters of free education and education-related debate. We visited several faculties of the University as well as the Uni Library, calling fellow students for getting organised, and indicating our conception of education as a common wealth and not an object of commercial trade. Some of the listeners actually came to talk to us on politics, which unfortunately is already a big success, while the University Administration got us spied on by their guards. A press release in Polish is on the OKUPE website: www.okupe.blogspot.com“
Further reports from other cities are expected to be available soon.
Students from across the country participated in a National Day of Action for Education Rights, Nov. 10, demanding an end to the budget cuts, layoffs and tuition hikes hitting schools since the economic crisis began.
The Campaign for Education Rights, a working group of the Network to Fight for Economic Justice, organized the protests after the students, faculty and staff of the University of California system held mass walk-outs and occupations in September. “Now is the time to carry the momentum forward into a nationwide movement for education rights,” reads the call to action. Over a dozen organizations endorsed the National Day of Action for Education Rights.
In Milwaukee, WI, over 100 students and workers picketed outside the administrative office building. The event was organized by the UWM Education Rights Campaign. Speakers included Cathy Kaye of the professors’ union, Lee Abbott of the teacher assistants’ union, Gilbert Johnson of AFSCME Local 82, Moondancer Drake of Students Equalizing Rights Forever, Clint Myrick of the Black Student Union, Jacob Flom of Milwaukee Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and author and lecturer Michael Parenti. Angela Lang, an emcee at the rally, led the picket into a march to the doors of the Chancellor’s office. She thought the rally was a great kick-off of the campaign. “The Chancellor of our university is helping make cuts to our university while allowing himself a pay raise. We were chanting ‘education is a right’ and I was glad to be there protecting student rights.”
In Asheville, North Carolina, the UNCA chapter of Students for a Democratic Society staged a mock funeral for the EARN scholarship, a scholarship for over 10,000 low-income students that was recently cancelled. In the student union, protesters dressed in black gathered around a fake coffin and tombstone to ‘mourn’ the death of the scholarship. “We wanted to send a message to the North Carolina general assembly that youth and workers will not stand for this, said Viviana Moreno of UNCA-SDS. “Working people will not foot the bill for the economic crisis that has been created by the rich.”
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the University of Minnesota chapter of SDS organized a protest of over 40 people speak out against the high salaries of the university administration and the tuition hikes on campus. Protesters beat into pieces a piñata modeled after the university president, chanting, “Money for education, not for administration!”
“We’re seeing a huge crisis in foreclosures and unemployment and cuts to social services,“ said Andrew Somers, a member of UMN- SDS. “It’s a time where a lot of different fight backs need to happen. This was an inspiring event and we need to continue fighting.”
The fight for education rights is not over. Schools across the country are continuing with plans to protest cuts, layoffs and tuition hikes and students are inspired by the militant campus occupations happening around the country.
University of Minnesota SDS rally. (Fight Back! News/Staff)
(during the “Education is NOT for $A£€ – Global Week of Action“)
- General assembly at the occupied University of Tuebingen (Germany) @3pm GMT
- BIG demonstration in Wiesbaden (Germany) together with teachers who will be on strike (~ 15,000 people are expected)
- Further protests and demonstrations across Germany, arranged by close to 100 local alliances: http://bildungsstreik.net/category/bundnisse
- Rally and sit-in at the San Francisco State University (U.S. of A.)
- Student led discussion on “The Role of the University” at the University of North Dakota (U.S. of A.)
- Demonstration against tuition fees in Freetown, called for by the National Youth Coalition Student Assembly (Sierra Leone)
- Pupils across France are mobilising for a day of action against reforms, that will promote a “two-class” public education system. Demonstrations expected in at least 26 cities. Close to 3,000 high schools are involved; frontdeluttepourleducation.fr
- Flashmobs and open discussions about the importance of free and emancipatory public education in Skopje (Republic of Macedonia); Sloboden Indeks (Free Index)
- Various protests – among which are also demonstrations – are being arranged in Bern, Basel, Zürich and Geneva (Switzerland): unsereuni.ch
- Demonstrations – and maybe further actions – across Italy, supported by the Unione degli Studenti (UdS).
- Day of Action across Austria: demonstrations, rallies, flashmobs, public discussions; unsereuni.at
- Simultaneous flashmobs in at least 7 cities across Poland; Demokratyczne Zrzeszenie Studenckie
- Demonstration in Budapest (Hungary) in front of the Austrian embassy.
- Demonstrations are to take place in Yogyakarta, Makassar and Palu (Sulawesi), Samarindo (Borneo), Ternate (Maluku) and Madura – all in Indonesia; lmnd-prm.blogspot.com
- Opening of gallery showing pictures of student protests around the world on campus of the Jagannah University (Dhaka; Bangladesh)
~ One World – One Struggle ~
On October 3 in Chicago, IL, the We Say Fight Back! Conference (http://www.wesayfightback.com) drew hundreds of trade unionists, community organizers, leaders of housing struggles, students, and many others to talk about how to fight back against the savage cutbacks now afflicting workers, students, the poor, women, and oppressed minorities across the United States.
A student and youth workshop was held with folks from campuses and communities across the US. We passed a resolution calling for a national protest for education rights on November 10, 2009 (text of the resolution below). The purpose of the day of action is to help build the movement to demand education as a fundamental right, not a privilege. While we are all facing particular battles in our local situations, having a unified day of action can help us spark a broader movement by demonstrating our solidarity with all those struggling for education rights.
We are meeting via conference call weekly to help make this action a success. If you are interested in getting involved, sign up for the listserv to get call information!