Just a short drive from Seattle Central, North Seattle College participated in the district-wide all-campus walk out on April 16th, 2019. These coordinated walk-outs are connected by the American Federation of Teachers, an organization that has been comprehensive in the support of staff at Seattle Colleges. Their “(Re)invest in Our Colleges” (ROC) campaign has three objectives for state legislature and administration. ROC wishes to see Cost of Living Annual (COLA) wage increases to be required at 100% as opposed to the 65% required previously, an increase in funding to Community and Technical Colleges by $500 million, and increase salaries by 12% this year. In the light of disparaged wages among college instructors as well as the lack of funding to support smaller class sizes, instructors at North, South, and Central Seattle Colleges decided to walk out with their students in solidarity for the desire to be better supported by administration and state legislation.
The day began early and strong at 9 am, with several classes breaking the quietude of this otherwise-tranquil Northwest morning. Instructors and students stood arm in arm or sign in hand, spanning from tenured staff to high school students utilizing the Running Start program. Collette Royal, a Junior at Nathan Hale High School, is working toward an AA transfer degree at North Seattle. According to her, the college serves as “an amazing opportunity, and it won’t be the same if the teachers here are not taken care of or well supported.” The issue of staff support was a common thematic among the participants in this school-wide call to action.
As the afternoon approached, the front of campus became slowly more filled with passionate picketers and press coverage. A small group of instructors spoke through a megaphone to a larger group of supporters in an effort to depict exactly what it is that everyone was gathered for- support for students and staff alike. Geoff Palmer, Sociology Professor and North Seattle Alumni, was adamant in pointing out that “students have the biggest voice in the influence for change. The power is in the people, and they deserve to be heard.” This outcry was met with exclamations of support throughout. Palmer describes his ability to have navigated the education system to this point a “privilege that should not be taken for granted or ignored. Many teachers that still teach here today were mentors for me and continue to serve our community as a whole.”
Palmer was a significant contributor to the demonstration, and after leading a series of rally chants, he marched the group of some 100 people down past the college’s leaderboard to a bridge overlooking I-5 within sight of the Northgate Mall. The chants continued as banners were hung on each side of the bridge facing oncoming traffic with slogans reading “FUND OUR SCHOOLS,” and “TEACHERS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUNDS.” The signage was prevalent and hardly a hand was empty in the entire crowd.
The demonstration was raucous, and much attention was shown by passerby vehicles, honking their support. As protesters were walking back to campus, drivers were heard exclaiming their frustrations- encouraging students and faculty to continue fighting the good fight. Development from this point on is in the hands of the administration and state legislature, whether or not they to take action based on the demands of the hundreds of loud voices from the walk out.