Numerous instructors at Clark College cancelled classes on May 1 as part of an ongoing campaign by faculty for higher salaries. Some instructors used the cancellation as an opportunity to teach their students about workers’ rights.
Many students were encouraged by their professors to attend on campus screenings of “At the River I Stand,” a documentary about the labor movement, which was followed by a panel with local union representatives. Panelists spoke about low teacher salaries and related their own experiences.
The film was shown four times during the day in Gaiser Student Center, with screenings before and after the panel. Throughout the day, students came through as groups with classes and on their own.
Clark student Madelyn Fredrickson found the long history of union workers informative. “It was interesting to see different perspectives as to why people protest,” she said.
Fredrickson enjoyed one panelist’s perspective of how they overcame struggles to succeed.
“We’re in a consumer society where people expect you to be on Wall Street and make a lot of money, but that’s not always the case,” Frederickson said.
Fredrickson also shared her thoughts on teachers’ incomes.
“I’ve been friends with a lot of teachers growing up and they have to go above and beyond all the time,” she said. “They have to [use] their own wages to pay for school supplies. They put in a lot of time and effort, and it’s not fair that they have to do that.”
Fredrickson then added what she thought about some instructors encouraging their students to attend the film viewing.
“I think it’s a really good idea. I thought it was important that my professor, Damien Gilley, emphasized that we should watch this film and listen to the panelists,” she said.
The panel offered insight into the lengths people will go to for justice, she said.
Professor Grant Hottle, an instructor in the Art Department didn’t listen to the panelists, but shared what he learned from the film.
“I know the story of Dr. King in Memphis but I learned more about the timeline that led up to this. I liked listening to the civil rights speeches and how impactful they were,” Hottle said.
Hottle said that the film was inspiring for him.
“Tying labor to civil rights and fighting against poverty was very moving. I’m happy to be a part of labor here at Clark,” Hottle said. “I’m a proud member of the union and I’m glad they’re standing up for faculty and staff that have low pay.”
While some Clark instructors canceled classes, others brought their students to the event.
“I did cancel my class today. I told my students that we’re going on negotiations for fair pay and we want to show the administrations that we’re serious,” Hottle said.
Clark Math Instructor Garrett Gregor, also saw the movie.
“The documentary was presenting a troubled period of our time, and we still have these troubles to this day. It caused me to be thoughtful,” Gregor said. “I was excited for the sanitation workers being recognized as a union so they could get the pay and benefits they deserved to get them out of poverty. That was a step in the right direction. I think it’s a shame that people have to fight for that.”
Gregor also shared his thoughts about teachers’ salaries.
“I think throughout the nation it’s pretty clear that educators are not taking the salary that matched the education that they needed,” Gregor said. “It’s difficult for me to entice my students to be educators because it’s not paying as much as it should.”