Category Archives: Strikes

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.

The Lessons of West Virginia

Source: Eric Blanc, Jacobin, March 9, 2018

West Virginia’s historic wildcat strike has the potential to change everything. ….

…. The Great West Virginia Wildcat is the single most important labor victory in the US since at least the early 1970s. Though the 1997 UPS strike and the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike also captured the country’s attention, there’s something different about West Virginia. This strike was statewide, it was illegal, it went wildcat, and it seems to be spreading. ….

The Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike

Source: Stuff You Missed in History Class, Podcast, February 7, 2018 (audio)

Memphis sanitation workers stayed off the job starting January 12, 1968 in a strike that lasted for nine weeks. This was the strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis, Tennessee, where he was assassinated on April 4 of that year.

Here’s the “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” speech.
Here’s a link to The Root’s series of videos on the strike.

Tracy’s Research: ….

Deadly Picket-Lines in US Labour History

Source: Paul F. Lipold and Larry W. Isaac, International Union Rights, Vol. 24 No. 2, 2017
(subscription required)

Dead men tell no tales; that is, until the living give them voice. From 1870 to 1970, a veritable victims’ chorus of no fewer than 1160 fatalities was amassed during labour dispute confrontations within the United States of America. Each was simultaneously an expression of and catalyst within the dialectical evolution of US labour-management relations. …. Between 1877 to 1947, the US labour movement experienced the most violent and bloody era of and Western industrialized nation: strikers, organisers, and their sympathizers comprised nearly two-thirds of the classifiable victims. ….

The new American way—how changes in labour law are increasing inequality

Source: Mark Stelzner, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, First published: 27 June 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
How have changes in labour law affected income inequality in the United States over the last half century? Curiously, even though employers have increased the degree to which they break labour law, workers have decreased their utilisation of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the strike. How do we understand the unwillingness of labour to utilise the NLRB and the strike when under increasing attack? To answer these interrelated questions, I analyse three central changes in federal labour law and norms from the middle of the 20th century to present: the usage of permanent replacement workers, adjudication of the main federal labour law—the National Labor Relations Act—and change in administration of the NLRB—the body charged with overseeing the National Labor Relations Act.

Nursing Home Workers Win Wage Gains with Credible Strike Threat

Source: Leah Fried, Labor Notes, May 26, 2017

After close to three years of negotiations, stickers and leaflets weren’t getting the boss any closer to a fair agreement. The master contract covering 10,000 nursing home workers in Illinois had been expired for two years and extended several times.

Management was insisting on a wage freeze until Illinois overcame its budget impasse and increased Medicaid reimbursements. Long-term workers were languishing at minimum wage, even when their employers had begun offering higher wages to entice new hires.

Meanwhile, staffing was dangerously short. Often a certified nursing assistant was forced to care for 20 or more residents in an eight-hour shift—bathing, feeding, and assisting them at a furious pace. On top of keeping the nursing home clean, a housekeeper had to collect meal trays for hundreds of residents because there weren’t enough dietary aides.

To win a new agreement, it was clear that workers would need to be prepared to strike.

But their local, Service Employees (SEIU) Healthcare Illinois-Indiana (HCII), hadn’t ever waged a strike over its master nursing home contract. In fact, the last time there was a nursing home strike at any of these facilities was in 1979. The local’s previous contract campaigns had been lackluster. Mobilization had been limited to stickers, petitions, and a practice picket.

And giving each nursing home the organizing attention it needed now was a huge challenge. The bargaining unit covers 28 different employers and 103 facilities statewide…..