The Strike of 2016: a memoir

I wrote this as an email to a friend, but I enjoyed it so much, I’m going to share it here as well:

I breathed a sigh of relief. Even laughed a little. There wasn’t going to be a strike now, was there? The governor himself had released a statement saying that APSCUF (the teacher’s union) and PASSHE (the state system) basically had no reason to not get a contract together and avoid a strike.

But then APSCUF started posting Facebook videos and tweeting. PASSHE had given them one final offer and walked away from the negotiating table. If both sides didn’t come to an agreement by 5 a.m. the next morning, the teachers would strike.
1 am: APSCUF tweeted: “We’re still here.”
2 am. 3 am. 4 am. Still the same message tweeted from APSCUF.
5:02 a.m. My phone buzzes with APSCUF’s tweet (since I had set their tweets to come to me as text messages). The strike was happening.
Everything devolved into utter madness. Actually, not really. Life went on pretty much as normal. Except it wasn’t.
Sean and I ate breakfast together (since, for some reason, there was no one in my scheduled 8 am class), and walked to the library. Work went on as normal. A yellow car–perhaps a Mustang–pulled up beside us. Someone, holding a large American flag, held it out the window. They chanted a chant from SpongeBob: Not that I watch SpongeBob. My roommate is a fan of it, though.
In front of the library, a large group of students and teachers had gathered. I forgot when I first saw the dinosaur. But there he was–a rather small for his size Tyrannosaurus Rex, walking down the street.
My coworker, Katie Lundy, was thrilled about the strike. “I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t a strike,” she had said yesterday. “The people in power need to be taken out!” Today, her eyes glinted wickedly. “I love anarchy!” she grinned.
I left the library to go to class, more of a symbolic gesture than anything. As I reached the picket line, I ran into my professor for the class I was going to. I took a picture of her and her comrades protesting with pro-APSCUF signs in their hands.
When I returned to the library for another hour or so of work, there was even more madness: an impromptu band had been set up, with a number of students playing brass instruments. Katie was in the middle of the crowd, participating in a dance battle. I wistfully remembered the innocent days when I myself dance battled my old friend Ian. But those days were no more.
Sean and I discussed under what situations I should consider trying to transfer colleges. He himself predicted that the strike would last three weeks. If the strike was merely “political posturing,” it would be resolved in three days, he said; but if APSCUF was trying to take the “moral high ground,” as he believed it was, the strike would last three weeks.
But my boss, a lady in her 50s named Janet, after reviewing the final proposed contract from PASSHE, believed that the strike was, in fact, political posturing.
The strike continued the next day. Sean and Anne and I watched Citizen Kane. My dad texted me, warning me that although “the whole strike thing” was new to me, people would get emotionally charged, maybe even violent. I assured him that the emotional part of the strike was the brass band. “The titanic started out with music too,” he replied.
But there weren’t as many people. A number of students (three that I knew) had taken a bus to Harrisburg to protest outside Chancellor Brogan’s office. “Chancellor Brogan, get off your a–! I’d rather be in class!” my friend told me they chanted. I caught a glimpse of the dinosaur, and then it disappeared from my life forever.
Before the giant debate viewing party, Sean and I tried to improvise a song about the strike. It went something like this:
“Is gonna play rough.
“‘Cause PASSHE
“Is being nasty!”
The debate was fun to watch. Anne and Sean and I were interviewed by a guy from the local paper, but I don’t think our interview made it into the paper.
Friday came. At least I had one class that day–Dr. Roger Webster, my Discrete Structures professor, wasn’t striking. I checked my school email.
From: Dr. Roger Webster
Subject: out sick today
My dad called me, and we threw around ideas about under what conditions I should consider trying to transfer to, say, Pitt or York. We were about to hang up when my roommate signaled for my attention.
“Hey, Ben!” he said. “The strike’s over!”
So it was. APSCUF and PASSHE had reached a tentative agreement that, once finalized, would extend the teacher’s contract until 2018.
I tweeted a video of the “Hallelujah Chorus”: “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent raineth!”
And so He was, for it was raining outside.
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