Category Archives: Strikes

How to Strike and Win: A Labor Notes Guide

Source: Labor Notes, November 2019

From the introduction:
A good strike is an exercise of power, not just a rowdier form of protest. There is something you want, and a decision-maker who could give it to you but doesn’t want to. The point of the strike is to make it harder for this decision-maker to keep saying no—and easier for the decision-maker to stop the pain by saying yes.

For a private-sector employer, the primary way a strike exerts power is by hurting profits.

For a public-sector employer, it is by interfering with the normal functions of public service and creating a political crisis that elites must respond to.

It’s essential to carefully appraise all the forms of power, or leverage, the union can muster. Don’t hit the bricks without assessing what it will take to win.

Once your leverage is identified, you’ll have to do the organizing legwork to make it real. Leverage is only potential until you bring it to life. The union will rely on its own internal solidarity to remain united in the face of intimidation and to generate widespread solidarity from others. The advice in the rest of this manual is designed to build that internal and external solidarity.

But the best organizing in the world may fail to move your employer if you don’t start with a solid plan to win. That’s an analysis of how the actions by workers and supporters will add up to enough pressure to make the decision-maker back down.

Thriving cities, challenged schools: teacher strikes highlight districts’ credit issues

Source: Helen Cregger, Denise Rappmund, Naomi Richman, Leonard Jones, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, September 17, 2019
(subscription required)

Given enrollment declines, high housing prices, tighter labor markets and a growing proportion of legacy fixed costs, meeting teacher pay and staffing demands will continue to challenge districts, especially those with more constrained finances.

Urban Regimes and the Policing of Strikes in Two Gilded Age Cities: New York and Chicago

Source: Richard Schneirov, Studies in American Political Development, First View, September 11, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Since the 1980s, scholars have argued that during the Gilded Age urban party machines incorporated working people through the use of patronage, informal provision of personal welfare, and limited concessions, thereby eliminating sustained labor and Socialist Party alternatives and keeping workers’ militancy and assertiveness confined to the workplace. That view is challenged by a historical comparison of the policing of labor disputes in New York and Chicago. In New York, organized workers were eliminated from the governing coalition of the Swallowtail-Kelly regime that succeeded the Tweed Ring, and police routinely used coercion to defeat strikes and intimidate Socialists. In Chicago, however, labor and Socialists were part of the governing coalition of the Carter Harrison regime, and the police took a hands-off stance in many strikes. This article explores the contrast in policing and the balance of social forces in the two cities and seeks to explain the differences by examining the political settlements that concluded Reconstruction, the ethnic makeup of each city’s working classes, the different characteristics of each city’s labor movement, and labor’s ability to mount third-party challenges—all in the context of regional variations. It concludes that historians cannot assume that workers were incorporated into machines in this period.

See Where Teachers Got Pay Raises This Year – Protests across the country swayed governors to push for salary bumps

Source: Daarel Burnette II & Madeline Will, Education Week, Vol. 38 Issue 36, Published in Print: June 19, 2019

More than a year after teachers across the country began walking out of their classrooms en masse to demand higher salaries, at least 15 states have given their teachers a raise.

And lawmakers in several more states are putting the final touches on plans to raise teacher salaries, according to an Education Week analysis…..

….Here’s what you need to know about each state’s plan (as of June 17) to raise teacher pay. (The average teacher salary for each state reflects the National Education Association’s estimate for the 2018-19 school year, which would not include these raises.)

Click a state in the dropdown to jump to that section: ….

The Strike As the Ultimate Structure Test

Source: Jane McAlevey, Catalyst, Vol. 2 no. 3, Fall 2018

As the labor movement has begun to show signs of a revitalization, we excavate a volume, long consigned to obscurity, from an earlier era. As Jane McAlevey observes, even though almost a century has passed since its initial publication, Steuben’s book remains astonishingly relevant today — which speaks both to the enduring facts of employment relations in capitalism, as well as to the efficacy of Steuben’s strategic perspective.

Denver City & County S.D. 1, CO: Terms of teacher strike settlement to have minimal credit impact on Denver Public Schools

Source: Denise Rappmund, Gera M. McGuire, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Issuer Comment, February 20, 2019
(subscription required)

The agreement, which ended a three-day strike, calls for a $23 million bump in teacher compensation, which equates to 2% of the district’s fiscal 2018 budget. Despite lackluster growth in state aid, the district’s credit profile continues to improve with in-migration, a highly educated workforce and a rapidly expanding tax base….

Why the Seattle General Strike of 1919 should inspire a new generation of labor activists

Source: Steven C. Beda, The Conversation, February 6, 2019

It shut down a major U.S. city, inspired a rock opera, led to decades of labor unrest and provoked fears Russian Bolsheviks were trying to overthrow American capitalism. It was the Seattle General Strike of 1919, which began on Feb. 6 and lasted just five days.

By many measures, the strike was a failure. It didn’t achieve the higher wages that the 35,000 shipyard workers who first walked off their jobs sought – even after 25,000 other union members joined the strike in solidarity. Altogether, striking workers represented about half of the workforce and almost a fifth of Seattle’s 315,000 residents.

Usually, as a historian of the American labor movement, I have the unfortunate job of telling difficult stories about the decline of unions. However, in my view, the story of this particular strike is surprisingly hopeful for the future of labor.

And I believe it holds lessons for today’s labor activists – whether they’re striking teachers in West Virginia or Arizona, mental health workers in California or Google activists in offices across the world….

Seattle General Strike: Labor’s Most Spectacular Revolt

Source: Cal Winslow, Labor Notes, February 6, 2019

On February 6, 1919, Seattle’s workers struck—all of them. In doing so they took control of the city.

The strike was in support of 35,000 shipyard workers, then in conflict with the city’s shipyard owners and the federal government’s U.S. Shipping Board, which was still enforcing wartime wage agreements.

The strike rendered the authorities virtually powerless. There was indeed no power that could challenge the workers. There were soldiers in the city, and many more at nearby Camp Lewis, not to mention thousands of newly enlisted, armed deputies—but to unleash these on a peaceful city? The regular police were reduced to onlookers; the generals hesitated.

Seattle’s Central Labor Council, representing 110 unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), called the strike. The CLC’s Union Record reported 65,000 union members on strike—a general strike, the first and only of its kind in the U.S. Perhaps as many as 100,000 people participated…..

Everything You Need to Know About General Strikes

Source: Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, No Class, January 24, 2019

The word strike seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. Workers across the world have been striking to protest poor working conditions, to speak out against sexual harassment, and to jumpstart stalled union negotiations. And as we just saw with the Los Angeles teachers’ successful large-scale strike, which spanned six school days, strikers have been winning. Despite the shot of energy that organized strikes have injected into the labor movement, many people aren’t content with run-of-the-mill work stoppages, or even with more militant wildcat strikes…..

….. So what does it all mean? How is a general strike different from a planned, industry-specific work stoppage; why are people interested in the idea now; and what would one look like in 2019? …..

Red State Strikes and the Roots of Teacher Militancy

Source: Jon Shelton, LAWCHA: The Labor and Working-Class History Association Newsletter, 2018

…. These strikes were among the most important victories in the US in recent history, a clear victory for communities decimated by years of Republican-led austerity. Further, the cross-district teacher strikes this past spring seemed especially shocking because of the right’s decades-long characterization of teacher unions as inimical to the interests of the nation’s children, there has actually been labor peace among teachers and school districts going back 30 years now. The strike wave surprised many observers, particularly since they took place in conservative, “right-to-work” states where public employee strikes are illegal. Yet this new era of teacher unionism builds on a long history of teacher militancy. ….