West Chester, PA – Pennsylvania college faculty won a new contract after three days on the picket lines and mobilizing support from students, parents and other sectors of support throughout the state.
On the second day of the strike on Oct. 20, APSCUF, the faculty union of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), continued picketing to demand quality education, maintain quality healthcare and fight cuts. Students and faculty picketed, marched and sang union songs like Solidarity Forever and Which Side Are You On?. Protesters also chanted, “El pueblo unido, jamás seran vencido!” or “The people united, will never be defeated!” Students stood with faculty holding signs all around campus and offered rides, made food and handed out water.
In addition, students traveled to PASSHE headquarters in Harrisburg to make the chancellor listen to them. One student group was consistently on the frontlines with faculty, the West Chester University of Pennsylvania chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) demonstrated their solidarity by picketing with faculty from early in the morning to late at night.
Sabrina Glass of Students for a Democratic Society said, “While I was personally frustrated with the PASSHE system, for showing a blatant lack of concern for my own education, what was more frustrating was watching the concern and worry in my professors leading up to the strike. No one deserves to spend such a long amount of time wondering about what the future of their jobs may be.”
On Oct. 21, students and faculty hit the picket lines together for a third day. At 10 a.m. several students marched into town where they talked with Mayor Carolyn Committa, who was supportive. Then students marched to the Olive Branch Restaurant where Governor Tom Wolf was invited to an important luncheon. The students demanded the governor come down to visit West Chester University of Pennsylvania campus.
Sabina Sister was able to engage the governor, but all Governor Wolf could say was “You should just get back to class.” As students marched and chanted in front of the restaurant, Governor Wolf eventually left out the back door.
After this confrontation, students marched back to campus where picket lines where livelier than ever. The band came out to play Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing and Hey Baby, with the new lyrics, “Hey Brogan, I wanna know if you’ll make a deal.” High Street Harmonix, the schools a cappella group also came out to join the picket lines in support of the faculty.
Sabina Sister and Ian Gallagher of SDS helped lead chants: “We shall not be moved,” “Brogan, get it done,” and “When education is under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!” Students then led yet another march around campus chanting “Students for faculty” and “2-4-6-8 now they must negotiate!”
Reflecting on his experiences, SDSer Aaron Gallant said, “I realized exactly why being on the teachers’ picket line was so important when I talked to someone about the strike and they spoke as if I were a victim of selfish professors. This surprised me, as I believe the decision to strike to be absolutely legitimate. In order to claim every worker’s right to strike we must dispel the myth that strikers are lazy or selfish by supporting them wherever they are.”
The first time ever, faculty strikes on all 14 PASSHE universities sent a powerful message to government and state officials, especially Chancellor Frank Brogan. At 4:03 p.m. APSCUF published a press release officially declaring a victory and the strike over. For three days students and faculty stood in solidarity together, to fight for a new contract for APSCUF. The three-day strike showed what worker power can do.