200 join UI walkout for state workers

200 join UI walkout for state workers

URBANA – More than 200 students demonstrated Friday on the University of Illinois Quad in a walkout in support of state workers in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.

They weren't all UI students. About 20 made the walk over from Urbana High School, and a similar number went south from University Laboratory School.

Zach Korol-Gold, a Uni senior, urged students to support labor and human rights.

"Lots of people tell our generation that we're causeless," he said, noting that 100,000 students had walked out nationwide in support of state workers.

Nearby, Urbana junior Kirsten Slaughter, who organized her peers and led them on a 15-minute walk to the Quad on a sunny afternoon, said that the student-led movement is democracy in action.

A call for hands up for anyone who had walked out of a UI class found no volunteers, because as one student yelled, "We're smart enough not to take classes on Friday afternoon."

Students marched from just south of the Illini Union to the steps of the Foellinger Auditorium, where their chants echoed across a Quadrangle which was largely empty except for the demonstrators.

Not all of them were students. Freelance proofreader Jessie Norris of Urbana held a sign that enumerated gains won by the labor movement over decades.

The sign included the eight-hour day, the end of child labor, decent wages and ended with a "thank unions."

"People forget what we have gained from the union movement. And it's not unions that have sent jobs overseas or closed factories," she said.

Norris said that the history of labor relations is complicated and that the union movement isn't perfect.

"Let's fix it, not throw it out," she said.

The event's organizer, Sarah Otten of the Graduate Employees Organization, said the event was the creation of undergraduate students, not labor unions.

Teachers "that participate do so as individuals and not under the auspices of any Urbana-Champaign union locals," she said in an e-mail.

She said the impetus came from a group called Wisconsin Students in Solidarity, started by high school students to protest Wisconsin's cutting of collective bargaining rights.

Susan Davis of the Campus Faculty Association said that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's state Senate victory Wednesday was an "end run around the legislative process."


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Sid Saltfork wrote on March 12, 2011 at 9:03 am

As a retired union member (yes, I voluntarily still pay my dues); I want to say Thank You to the students. I am sure that all union members whether they are in the trades, teachers, or public employees feel the same way about your action. The future is in your hands. Thanks again.

The Observer wrote on March 12, 2011 at 11:03 am

While Zach Gorol-Gold, a Uni senior, urged students to support labor and human rights when stating "Lots of people tell our generation that we're causeless..." it is obvious to this writer that this generation should not bear the burden alone in this summation. Actually no generation since those protesting the Vietnam War while supporting the cause for civil rights in the 60's has carried a real social "cause" bearing real significance.

Do you really believe these unions are helping our nation's economic concerns during this fiscal crisis? Are you in support of an education system that carries with it an academic failure rate so high while teachers earn, with benefits, nearly 6 figure incomes with lifetime benefits no matter the quality of their work? Do you seriously support the near violence we have witnessed in Wisconsin by supposed union supporters towards not only elected officials but also those who disagree with their stance?

If ever there was a cause to support these days consider the longest war in US history currently going on in the middle east. Or better yet, protest against those who have led this nation into the worst economic times since the Great Depression of the 20's and 30's.

Yet how dare a bunch of uninformed protest for a union cause that only exists to manipulate political outcomes and soak the taxpayers in the private sector for wages and benefits that inflate nothing more the greed of a minority vs the needs of the majority today.

Students are so easily manipulated. This is why, even in Wisconsin, the union resorted to using them as supposed union representatives to the media because they didn't have enough members to make a crowd look good for the media.

C-U Resident wrote on March 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Fiscal conservatives are so easily manipulated. Your generalizations and patent lies about teacher salaries and unions clear evinces the fact that you receive your news from talk radio and FoxNews.

To your point "no generation since those protesting the Vietnam War while supporting the cause for civil rights in the 60's has carried a real social "cause" bearing real significance." Really? Apartheid, GLBT rights, anti-Iraq Invasion, etc. and that's just in America. None of these rise to your level of "significant?" And who made you the arbiter of social movements anyways? Which causes have you put yourself on the picket for?

Near violence in Wisconsin? Are you serious? What news have you been watching? The simple fact that there has been several hundred thousand protesters there over the last three weeks, and there has been NO, let me repeat NO violence in Madison, makes your comment incendiary, ignorant and downright false.

The bulk of the students that participated in the walk out are not "uninformed," they are union men and women, and they are graduate students. How dare YOU sit back and mock and generalize without, as is apparent, even attempt to learn what you are talking about.