With the hallway completely packed, Stoni Thomson—a member of the Student Labor Alliance at Brown—began, “I don’t know who is in charge here, but we have a message to deliver.”
The library administrators who were available did not respond and remained in their offices. One continued looking at his computer screen. Another sat in his chair and watched the chain of students file by his door.
Not swayed, the students in unison firmly stated, “We’re here to show our support of Brown library workers. We won’t stop until Brown agrees to a fair contract. And you haven’t seen anything yet. So now we’re going to “study-in.” We’re going to study here as a show of support to library workers.”
A solidarity clap began.
When the clapping subsided, Associate Librarian David Banush came out of his office and said, “This is not a public space for you to study in.” The students responded by sitting down and began study-ing in. Banush went back in his office and closed the door. Soon all the other library administrators’ doors closed.
A few minutes later, a Brown University public safety officer arrived and told the students they were creating a fire hazard. There was more clapping.
After the demonstration, Patrick Hutchinson, a library union worker, said, “I’ve been a union member for 40 years now…and this level of solidarity from the students is just unbelievable to me. It’s fabulous. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
This demonstration was done in support of library union workers who are currently in ongoing negotiations with Brown University. The previous contract ended September 31, 2014. Library union workers have been working without a new contract since then. The main concern for the union is staffing. Many areas in the library are currently understaffed. The union is also asking to be included in new work created by the library in its effort to remain current and relevant to the academic needs of Brown students.
I should add that my perspective on all this is very biased. I am a union member in the Brown library and I have been a part of the union negotiating team. In fact, my biases are so extreme and deep that I wholeheartedly applaud and support everything the students did in their demonstration of solidarity with library workers.
Video (and above photo) by Shirin Adhami: