Category Archives: Strikes

Behind the teacher strikes that have roiled five states – Why non-union states have seen the most unrest

Source: The Economist, May 5, 2018

From a block away, the striking teachers camped out around Arizona’s capitol at first looked like a solid sea of red, the colour of their T-shirts and tents. On closer inspection, they distinguished themselves the way the teachers have always distinguished their classrooms—with handmade signs. Leah Falcon (“Arizona exports: Cotton, copper, teachers”), who teaches middle-school maths, said she was “fighting because my kids deserve better than 34 students in a class.” Megan Marohn (“Arizona Spending per Student: $9,000. Per Inmate: $24,000”) is a classroom aide and lifelong Republican who frets that Arizona’s Republican legislature and governor “put the value of corporations above students”. Jay Bertelsen (“Christian Non-Union Conservative Teacher Fighting for Funding”) has taught computer science outside Tucson for 25 years; his children qualify for Arizona’s state-subsidised health care for poor families.

Grievances such as these have motivated teacher strikes in five states. They look likely to continue—galvanising public-sector workers in states where Democrats hope to make gains in this autumn’s midterm elections. ….

The Real Reason Behind Recent Teacher Strikes — And Why They’re Likely to Continue

Source: Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, Governing, May 10, 2018

It’s about much more than low salaries.

…. In 26 states, average teacher salaries, adjusted for inflation, were less in 2016 than they were at the end of the 20th century, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Two years ago, an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report documented the dive in weekly wages for teachers compared to other workers with comparable education requirements. In 2015, an average teacher made 17 percent less than comparable workers in salary. Back in 1994, the salary gap was 1.8 percent. ….

…. Teachers in Oklahoma still worry about the dangers to student education of going to a four-day school week in some districts. In Kentucky, there’s been no money for teacher professional development, extended school services have been cut and schools haven’t been able to spend money on textbooks.
Arizona school districts will still struggle to fund all the needs that have piled up. Years of cuts have, for example, left the school transportation budget severely underfunded. ….

Related:
Where Teacher Salaries Most Lag Behind Private Sector
Source: Mike Maciag, Governing, April 30, 2018

States where teachers are protesting have among the largest pay discrepancies when compared with similarly educated private-sector workers.

Georgia Bus Drivers Joined the School Uprising and Paid a Price

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, The Intercept, April 22, 2018
The red-state school uprising is spreading to educators around the country, with teachers in Colorado and Arizona now planning walkouts to demand better treatment from state and county governments. But the widespread public support that has helped carry the teachers to victories so far has been less present for blue-collar workers following in their footsteps. In Georgia, bus drivers who organized their own work stoppage last week were met with public condemnation and immediate firings.

On Thursday, the same day that the votes in favor of a walkout were tallied in Arizona, nearly 400 school bus drivers in DeKalb County, Georgia, stayed home from work, staging a “sickout” to protest their low salaries and meager benefits.  

Whether the school bus drivers can succeed in winning their demands and maintaining broad popular support remains to be seen, but the protest provides an important test case on whether these teacher movements will lead to a broader working-class uprising or stay limited to organizing among a narrower band of white-collar professionals. The bus drivers are not building their case around the idea that their unique talents merit greater monetary reward, but that they simply need and deserve to be treated more fairly…..

…..While the teachers strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona have boasted the vocal support of local school boards and superintendents, the school district leadership in DeKalb County has offered no such solidarity to the school bus drivers. In fact, seven bus drivers were fired on Thursday, identified as “sickout ringleaders.”….

The Teacher Strikes Show That Workers Are Really, Finally, Fed Up

Source: Eillie Anzilotti, Fast Company, April 19, 2018

By walking out of their classrooms, U.S. teachers are part of a global uprising against low wages for the benefit of increasing corporate profits. ….

….Legislatures in more conservative states have granted tax cuts to corporations, which have constricted budgets. To balance the budgets, the things that get cut are salaries and benefits. In the private sector, there’s often a similar story: Companies keep salaries and benefits low–or outsource work to independent contractors who don’t get any benefits at all–in order to maximize profitability and return money to shareholders.

That leaves us, Orleck says, with a broad coalition of workers, both public and private sector, whose livelihoods have suffered for the benefit of corporations. And as the teachers’ strikes–and scores of labor strikes around the world–have shown, that system has reached its breaking point…..

Labor Renaissance in the Heartland

Source: Lois Weiner, Jacobin, April 6, 2018

Red state teachers are reviving the labor movement’s core values: respect for democracy and the dignity of work.

Related:
The Teachers’ Strikes Have Exposed the GOP’s Achilles Heel
Source: Eric Levitz, New York Magazine, April 5, 2018

Last week, Republicans in Oklahoma voted to raise taxes on fossil fuel companies, so as to increase pay for public sector workers. That might sound like a perfectly ordinary thing for a state government to do. But in Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma, it’s anything but. This is a state that responded to a $1.3 billion budget shortfall in 2016 by cutting taxes on the rich, and renewing a $470 million tax break for oil and gas companies. It’s a state that has allowed fracking interests to turn it into the earthquake capital of the world; let a gas company literally dictate policy to its attorney general; and forbade itself from raising taxes on anyone unless three-fourths of its state legislature approves (and its state legislature is dominated by tea party conservatives). All this has made increasing taxes on the state’s top industry so unthinkable to Oklahoma Republicans, they have repeatedly found it preferable to plug budget gaps by raiding their state’s emergency funds, and forcing one-fifth of its school districts to adopt four-day weeks instead.

Thus, it was more than a little remarkable when, last Thursday, Governor Fallin signed her name to a bill that more than doubled the state’s tax on fossil fuel production, limited itemized deductions for high-earning individuals, and gave a $6,000 raise to the state’s teachers…..

Why workers go on strike

Source: M. Simms, The Conversation, March 23, 2018

The employment relationship – between employer and employee – is full of tensions, bargains and compromises. Even the most motivated employee has days when they would rather be doing something else. Or when they simply dislike the way their boss asked them to do something. These tension points often go unnoticed and unremarked upon. They are usually part of the give and take in the workplace.

Sometimes, however, they flare into something bigger. An industrial dispute is the most collective and formal manifestation of those tensions. A strike brings those compromises into sharp relief for all the parties involved. Strikes have become far less common as there are fewer workplaces where trade unions are recognised and well organised. But they do still happen, as recent strikes among junior doctors and higher education professionals highlight….

Teacher Strikes Are Spreading Across America With No End in Sight

Source: Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, April 2, 2018

One month after a teachers’ “wildcat” strike ended with a deal to hike pay for all West Virgina state employees, teacher strikes are spreading fast across the country, with no clear endgame in sight.

In Oklahoma, teachers Monday made good on their threat to shutdown hundreds of schools throughout the state, preventing students from taking tests that are required by the end of the school year to ensure federal funding. In Kentucky, schools are closed as well—many because of spring break, others because teachers have swarmed the state capitol building in Frankfort. And in Arizona, teachers last week gathered at the statehouse in Phoenix with buttons reading “I don’t want to strike, but I will.”  

In each case, teachers are pushing Republican governors and GOP-controlled legislatures to hike their pay, saying declining real wages threaten to drive staff out of the public school system. Educators see leverage in tight private sector labor markets and inspiration in West Virginia, where strikers defied union leaders by holding out for a better deal. They’re reviving the tactics of an earlier era: In the five years which followed World War II, as teachers felt left behind amid crowded classrooms and accelerating private sector wage growth, there were around 60 teacher strikes across the U.S.—many without legal protection or official union support…..

The Only Way to Survive Janus

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, March 30, 2018

The snows were still flying, but for unionists, spring came early this year. West Virginia’s teacher uprising burst onto the scene like rhododendrons opening: first one walkout, then another, and before you knew it a statewide strike was in full bloom.

The strikes were born at the grassroots, and that’s how they spread. Classroom teachers passed the word on Facebook, organized school votes, and rallied at the capital. Union leaders followed their members, but never took the reins.

No one seemed much concerned that public sector strikes are illegal in West Virginia. “What are they going to do, fire us all?” said Jay O’Neal, treasurer for the Kanawha County local.

It didn’t take long for the spirit to spread to underpaid teachers in three other states—thus far.

Their actions drove home a point that’s crucial for anyone who wants to see the labor movement survive. What’s required is members organizing themselves like those teachers did.