The following is an edited version of a statement issued Nov. 6 by the Southern Workers Assembly in salute of the education worker “walk-ins” which occurred Nov. 4 at schools throughout North Carolina. Visit southernworker.org.
On Monday, Nov. 4, thousands of teachers, bus drivers, cleaning staff, kitchen and other education workers from several dozen schools across North Carolina organized a “walk-in” before school to protest Gov. Pat McCrory’s massive cuts to public education and attacks on education workers’ rights. The state is 48th out of 50 states in both per-pupil funding for public education and average teacher’s pay.
“It’s time to stop being afraid,” stated Clara Stiers, a Westlake Middle School counselor speaking at a town hall in Apex, N.C. “Today is the beginning.”
Workers taking collective action, such as this walk-in, is the only way that working people can defend our jobs, our communities and the vital services that we provide. We must continue to stay organized and support each other in our struggles for democracy in the workplace. The initial call for a teachers’ walkout strike shows how determined many teachers are to fight for quality education for the students that includes job security for education workers. The walk-ins that were organized to engage education workers, parents, students and our communities, begin the direction of forming people’s education assemblies where real educational democracy comes to life.
This action — like many before, including the recent fast-food and Walmart workers’ strikes — was a continuation of the united struggle for workers across North Carolina, the South and the entire country. We must continue to meet after work, before work, during lunch and continue to organize actions that bring voice and power to workers. After all, we run the schools, the factories, the mental health institutions, the cities and all of society. Should we not be allowed to make decisions about how things are run?
Even in North Carolina, a state without collective bargaining rights for public employees, workers will find ways to organize and express our opposition to bad decisions made at the expense of our lives, our dignity and our communities. We must continue to work to overturn the anti-worker, anti-student, anti-poor ban on the right to collectively bargain for public workers and end right-to-work (for less) laws.
On Nov. 1, the Southern Workers Assembly hosted rallies in several Southern cities defending our right to protest, especially after the conviction of veteran Black labor activist Saladin Muhammad following his Moral Monday arrest. Workers taking concerted action is the best challenge to these attacks on the right to protest.
The Southern Workers Assembly — composed of workers from across the public sector, in private industry and also farmworkers — salutes and congratulates the bold and important action of education workers on Nov. 4 to finally take a little power back. We vow to continue to work hand-in-hand with the NC Association of Educators, Organize 2020 and other rank-and-file education workers across the state to help improve schools and workers’ rights. We support the work of Public Schools First NC to stop privatization of public education, so that private companies cannot get rich off public services.
An injury to one is an injury to all! Education is a right! Organize the South!