Stopped by Whittier on Saturday just to check in, see how everyone was holding up. The ladies are doing fine. “Solis supports us now,” they told me with a wide smile that let on how much they believed it. “He bought a t-shirt.”
“And then he expected us to thank him for it,” one protestor added.
Consider the massive media attention given to the sit-in by employees at Republic Windows and Doors in 2008 (for example: the New York Times, the NY Daily News, TIME, and The Rachel Maddow Show, to name just a few). While that sit-in had an undeniably sexy built-in news hook — workers fed up and taking rebellious action in the face of massive recession-era job loss — it is still fair to ask why that one-week-long sit-in would have made local, regional and national print and broadcast headlines, while the Whittier moms’ sit-in, which has already tripled the length of the Republic workers’ protest, has been so under- and mis-reported. After all, families fighting for their children, education stories, and B-roll of adorable kiddies are evergreen journalistic catnip… usually. But perhaps not so much, when those families are not wealthy, those kids are not white, and those education stories aren’t about the oh-so-in-vogue private charter school movement. Cynical? Perhaps. But, my guess is, accurate.
I’ll add to this—and it’s a point Jennifer Pozner points to in the above post but doesn’t underscore here—that a couple key differences offset the Whittier occupation from the Republic Windows and Doors sit-in: that as a women-led fight that involves elementary education issues, this occupation is very easy to write off as a women’s issue. Most journalists have. And more significant, that the struggle at Republic Windows and Doors was with an identifiable, big-brand monster: Bank of America. TIF funds, CPS corruption, and aldermanic abuse of power just don’t have the same ring.
Still, I’m thrilled that headway is being made, and that the women down at Whittier, and their kids, continue to feel pretty happy that they’re taking a stand for what they believe in.
I’ll also take this moment to highlight this really sweet piece by Cinnamon Cooper, who went down and interviewed the kids about their fight a few weeks ago for Gaper’s Block. It’s a charming piece, and if you’re not able to get down there yourself, you should spend some time with it.