A teaching assistant at UC Davis wrote this stunning letter to their students last week, highlighting the importance of tomorrow’s sympathy strike.
To my students,
Some of you may have heard that the graduate students’ union has called a strike in solidarity with the service workers’ union on Wednesday, November 20, 2013. Graduate students have been asked to cancel discussion sections, and avoid all work in our capacities as T.A.s on that day. Since I lead two sections on Wednesday, this strike directly affects me and many of you. I have researched the issues at stake, and feel the strike is a cause worth supporting, so I am choosing to cancel my discussion sections on Wednesday.
You have every right to expect me to be present in class, doing my job. So how do I choose between two just causes? We have seen in our readings this quarter how historians can “change the story” by including the voices from the past that have often been misunderstood or omitted, and how the stories we tell often have consequences for present struggles. I seek to incorporate marginalized “voices” in history, and I can do no less as I participate in shaping my community. To compromise this principle would undermine the core values that inspire my work in this field and in the classroom. You deserve a T.A. who has integrity, who does not say one thing and do another. I feel, therefore, that on Wednesday, I can best serve you by my absence.
I feel there is much more at stake in this strike than these workers’ immediate requests. This strike is part of a larger conversation in our state and our community regarding how we will share resources, honor hard work, and how we will allow individuals to express their needs and concerns. Are these workers our “invisible allies”? Each of you may arrive at a different answer to this question. Some of you may strongly disagree with my decision to support this strike. That is okay.
In fairness to you, I hope to mitigate, as much as possible, the impact this cancellation may have on your work this quarter. First, I can be available during my office hours tomorrow afternoon to discuss this week’s reading. Second, I can make appointments to meet with those of you who aren’t available during my office hours. Third, you may attend my section on Thursday at 12:10, or any other section this week (the other T.A.s have already granted me permission to offer this as an option). And fourth, you are *not* required to attend another section or to talk with me. Participation grades will not be affected by your decision either way.