Youth in Action: January-February 2019

From the January-February 2019 issue of News & Letters

by Buddy Bell

Peking University students from the university’s Marxist Society held a street protest to support their detained club president on Dec. 28. They were immediately grabbed by police and faculty members and dragged inside a school building and out of public view. One student ended up with a deep gash over the backs of his fingers. The South China Morning Post reports that the university handpicked 32 new members to stack the society with party loyalists. Official crackdowns began to escalate after the students dared to put Marxism into practice, helping industrial workers in Guangdong organize an independent union over the summer.

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Grinnell students marching for labor rights. Photo: https://www.ugsdw.org/

Student workers at Grinnell College in Iowa voted overwhelmingly in November to be represented by the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers, which will expand to include all paid jobs performed by students. The college has pledged to ask the National Labor Relations Board to block the election, claiming student workers are not employees. In response, students protested on their campus Dec. 7. The union website states: “Grinnell has a student ‘employment’ office… we are ‘employees’ on Grinnell’s tax forms. But why, when we want to unionize, are we suddenly not employees?” Even if Grinnell wins its appeal to the NLRB, that would not preclude students from coordinating labor actions independently.

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In an update from this Nov.-Dec. column, three teenage girls in Australia who held a school strike to demand government action on climate change have inspired thousands more students to further strikes through November and December. By press time, students in 270 towns and cities in Japan, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and Belgium have participated in the “Strike 4 Climate Action.” The three girls were moved to act after they read about a climate protest by Greta Thunburg of Sweden, who said she was inspired by students in the U.S. who staged massive walkouts for tougher gun control. In Sydney, 14-year-old Jean Hinchliffe told a crowd of students: “This is our first strike. Our first action. And it is just the beginning. And we’ll keep doing it until something is done.”

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