By LYNNE DODSON
AUBURN (May 24, 2016) — I will never cross a picket line.
Yesterday, hundreds of members of the Green River United Faculty Coalition/AFT Local 2195 started a three-day strike against the retaliatory practices of Green River College President Eileen Ely and Board of Trustee chair Pete Lewis.
They are talking a courageous step to protect their union, their students, and the staff at the college. They need our support. Please take some time to stop by their picket lines — they are on all four campuses. the main campus in Auburn, downtown Auburn annex, Kent campus at the Kent Commons, and the Enumclaw campus. Show them that we stand with them.
I was honored to join the striking Green River College faculty members on the picket line yesterday and proud to see the community out in full force to show solidarity. Cars were honking in support of the strike. Students came out to chant and join the strike line. Teamsters Joint Council 28 is honoring the strike by not picking up garbage and doing deliveries, and the M.L. King County Labor Council has sanctioned the strike.
Reps. Mia Gregerson (D-SeaTac), Tina Orwall (D-Kent), and Luis Moscoso (D-Everett) were in attendance to show their solidarity. Joining Green River faculty on the picket lines were members of the Washington State Nurses Association, Washington Education Association, Service Employees International Union, Washington Federation of State Employees, AFT Seattle, SPEEA/IFPTE 2001, Teamsters, and more.
But once again, Green River College President Ely and the college Board of Trustees refuse to collaborate with the union to avoid layoffs and program closures. Instead, yesterday in an emergency board meeting, the board voted 4-0 to reassert the authority of the president, and they notified the media they are seeking a court injunction to stop the strike.
Following are the remarks I made at the union’s press conference yesterday:
Faculty of Green River. On behalf of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, President Jeff Johnson, and hundreds of thousands of union workers across the state, I am here to say “thank you.” Thank you for the work you do — the two-year colleges are the most democratizing force in the state and its your work that makes it so.
Thank you for your hard work, your long hours, your dedication to your students, your college, your community.
Thank you also to the faculty, staff, and students who have tried to sustain an excellent educational system even while the President and Board Chair have created a toxic work and learning environment. You do the work. You put the community back in Green River College.
Last Friday, the Executive Board of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, unanimously voted to sanction the strike by Green River United Faculty against Green River College.
We’ve seen the faculty, staff, and students of Green River fight for years to solve the problems wrought by President Ely and Board Chair Lewis. At the bargaining table. In the board room. In the community. Yet, the administration persists in working to dismantle the college — retaliating against faculty, staff, and students who speak out, ignoring calls from the community to build, not destroy, this college.
Enough is enough. I’m here to let you know, for me, for President Jeff Johnson, for more than 600 unions and 450,000 union workers in Washington state. We stand with you! Your fight is our fight and we will not stand down until Green River is the college we can be proud of again.
Lynne Dodson is Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and a former professor at Seattle Central Community College, President of AFT Local 1789 and First Vice President of AFT Washington.
See more photos and updates from the strike at the Facebook page of the Green River United Faculty Coalition.