by Micah Wilkins, Editor-in-Chief
Several students in Melissa Blair’s Grassroots Politics class organized a general strike last Friday, picketing against struggles that were fought a century ago, while paralleling them with today’s issues on the Warren Wilson campus.
Holding signs that said things like “International workers of the world unite!” and “Women’s equality in the workplace,” a group of about a dozen students gathered outside of Gladfelter, urging students to skip their 4 p.m. work shifts and join the strike.
Senior Eva Westheimer, who is in Blair’s class and who organized the event, also decided to choose another issue to bring up during the strike: the fact that Warren Wilson College does not recognize Labor Day.
“Labor Day: Marx Your Calendar!” shouted junior Paul Neubauer, who helped organize the strike, and who plays Elizabeth Gurley Flynn in Blair’s class.
The Grassroots Politics class involves a game, Reacting to the Past, where each student is a prominent figure from Greenwich Village, New York in 1913. Neubauer and Westheimer’s characters were prominent labor activists during this time period, and fought for safe labor conditions, fair pay and work hours.
Neubauer and Westheimer wanted to coincide their strike with Labor Day, urging for no classes to be held on this day, and instead a second Work Day during the school year.
“What do we want? Two Work Days! When do we want them? Twice a year!” the picketers yelled.
Last year, after the decision was made to not hold classes on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Administrative Policy Committee also opened the door for conversations about recognizing other holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day. But on this year’s Labor Day, classes were held and offices were open. However, students in the strike felt that, especially because Warren Wilson is a work college, the school should recognize the holiday, and a Work Day would be an appropriate way to commemorate this day.
“Work Day, I’ve heard from many students, and I agree, is probably the greatest day of the year at Warren Wilson,” said Neubauer. “We get to slam out projects together and have fun as a community. Sometimes work crews can become exclusive or insular. Sometimes we don’t recognize others’ work, or we feel like our work is not appreciated, but Work Day brings everyone together in a common cause.”
The picketers decided to then bring their protest to the Ogg Building, up the stairs and outside of the president’s office. There, Neubauer and others expressed their views concerning Labor Day. Having a Work Day held at the beginning of the year may help retain students at the college, Neubauer said.
“[Work Day] is not until the second semester,” he said. “It is a day I consider a quintessential representation of our college. But so many aren’t exposed to it. Maybe [students who are thinking of leaving the college] would choose to stay if they were able to participate in something like this.”