April 2000, Knoxville, Tennessee
I was working a series of activist groups in this place and time. We planned a labor teach-in, which included speakers such as Richard Trumka, now AFL-CIO president. We wanted to use the event to confront the University of Tennessee on their exploitative labor practices. In the weeks leading up to the event, we held meetings, publicized the event around campus and the community, and held actions preparing for the big protest. We also spoke to the lowest-paid workers. These dormitory housekeepers, maintenance workers, and library staff jumped on the chance to protest their poor wages and unsafe working conditions.
That April morning witnessed an event never before seen at that conservative southern university. Approximately 400 people came to the university’s plaza. They included a couple of hundred workers, students, faculty, community members, and visitors to the event. Trumka spoke, others spoke. Even I spoke. The energy in the crowd grew each second. We ended by marching over to the administration building and demanding a meeting. Continue reading