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."