by Eric Ginsburg

Very little open political agitation happened in the dormant suburbs where I grew up, causing the handful of teachers standing on a traffic island with picket signs to stand out even more. It was cold out, and we were on the way home from school when my mom, who is pretty politically reserved and soft-spoken, stopped to buy a bulk container of hot coffee for the teachers.

They didn’t work at my school, or even in the same school system, but that wasn’t the point. My mom, who later became a reading specialist at an elementary school, taught me more about what solidarity means with that one act than I learned in years of being engaged in social movements.

Amidst Guilford College’s search to hire a new president, students, faculty and staff are amped up about what they say is an unacceptable disparity in wages between top campus administrators and the school’s employees. It’s not a new issue: We fought alongside cafeteria workers about wages and conditions when I was a student there.

A similar discussion is taking place at UNCG about the lack of value the university places on its employees. The school shifts the blame to the General Assembly while relentlessly pushing forward on a new recreation center (that nobody has been able to convince me should even be a mid-level priority). Guilford County Schools teachers, like their counterparts around North Carolina, are organizing against a new tenure plan and other laws that deprioritize traditional public education.

I’m not planning to join the picket line — I intend to stay on the reporting rather than the creating end of news — but the teachers and school staff at the public and private institutions in our cities have my full support. In times of growth or austerity — regardless of which chancellor, campus president or political party is in power — teachers are undervalued and underpaid. Their battles are not all the same and yet, these are our struggles, too.

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