Yesterday, the night before the great March 4th demonstration, the professor of my wealth and poverty course proposed a simple question. He asked the class, “What is happening tomorrow? I hear there’s a strike. Can someone explain this to me?” A girl in the back of the lecture hall raised her hand and proceeded to address the injustice faced by students in the UC system, and how the strike was meant to create awareness for this issue across the state (as if it wasn’t well-known already). Most of what she said was valid; however, Professor Reich then asked, “What is the purpose of this strike? Where is the power? Who are we striking against?”
Everyone let that question sink in for a few moments. It made us think – can we really call this a strike? For the past week, campus has been dotted with white, maroon, and black posters. All of them loudly proclaim, “MARCH 4TH STRIKE!” It seems we’ve forgotten the real meaning of the word. In the past, strikes were about a group of people, namely workers, banding together to gain economic power to fight unfair wages and conditions. The workers essentially shut down the factory for the duration of their strike, which in turn was costly for the employers. So here, at UC Berkeley, who exactly are we striking against? Some say it’s the legislators – but who are they to care whether or not we attend classes? We’re not directly hurting them or their business by refusing to step onto campus. Who ends up sustaining the brunt of the damage?
In fact, we’re only hurting ourselves by refusing the very product that we are paying for. I’m not against protests and demonstrations – they’re powerful if executed in a non-violent and rational manner. And of all things to defend, public education is most definitely high up on the list, if not at the top. However, let’s stop kidding ourselves with illusions of grandeur and stop describing these acts as strikes. Instead, let us defend public education through our own means, without stripping words of their true meaning.