By Cliff Pfenning
Sacrifice comes in many forms and in this case by way of solidarity.
Brianna Abrams, Amber Dyce and Danny Nichols are ABM custodians and members of SEIU Local 49 who tirelessly clean buildings throughout the Evergreen School District in Clark County, Washington.
The district’s teachers have been on strike since August 28, 2018, over state-mandated salary increases for teachers. Although the district has already received $22.1 million, it has refused to fairly bargain with the Evergreen Education Association (EEA) union over the distribution of funds.
Abrams, Dyce and Nichols have chosen to not cross picket lines and were actually granted time off by ABM. But here’s the rub: they are not being allowed to use their earned vacation time. They are walking with the striking teachers for free.
Because they are on a separate contract, custodians are not technically part of the work stoppage and the EEA understands and accepts that they need to cross the lines to go to work. But that’s not how these three—clad daily in Local 49 purple—see it. They are committed to remaining off work to show their support for as long as it takes the teachers to win at the bargaining table.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” Nichols said on August 30th while picketing alongside teachers at Heritage High School, including EEA Labor Liaison Marj Hogan and Secretary-Treasurer Adam Aguilera, who referred to the SEIU trio as “heroes for our cause.”
Dyce added, “This is about doing what’s right. We know we can cross over and go to work, but both of our unions need to stand together because we all work together.”
That truly is what solidarity looks like.
Cliff Pfenning is a Kaiser Contract Specialist and SEIU Local 49 Executive Board Member. We pried him out of his retirement from journalism to share this story of courageous SEIU members standing for justice.