April 21, 2018 10:42 AM   Subscribe

The Third Major Red-State Teachers Strike of 2018 Will Start Next Week (NYMag) As education struggles continue to spread across the US — from Arizona to Colorado to North Carolina — there is an urgent need to learn from the experiences of both Oklahoma and West Virginia. Jacobin’s Eric Blanc sat down with organizer and scholar Jane McAlevey to discuss some of the major strategic lessons of these recent strikes - A Strategy To Win
posted by The Whelk (19 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
So here's the thing about saying that we shouldn't focus on elections, because strikes are a better method to achieve things for workers. When you elect Republicans, they make it really hard for public sector employees to organize effectively. Where I live, it is illegal for teachers to strike. It is illegal for anyone to organize a teacher's strike. Any teacher who strikes faces a $500-a-day fine and up to six months in jail. Anyone individual who organizes a teacher's strike faces the same penalties. Any organization that organizes a teacher's strike faces criminal penalties, including much bigger fines and jail time for people in the organization. I, as a non-teacher public sector employee, could face jail time if I did anything to support a teacher strike. All this is true because elections do matter, the two parties actually are different, and Republicans will do anything they can to undercut workers' power.

If teachers in my state do strike, I will do anything I can to support their efforts. I will do that knowing that there's a small chance I could go to jail. But from what I've heard, there aren't any plans for teacher strikes here, because teachers and the teachers union aren't yet willing to take the risk. Of course, there could be efforts that I haven't heard about, because you'd better believe that any organizing would be going on quietly, under the radar of the authorities.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:36 AM on April 21, 2018 [21 favorites]

(That's in response to the Jacobin article, which seems to posit strikes and elections as an either/or, when they're clearly a both/and.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:37 AM on April 21, 2018 [11 favorites]

can we stop with the "red state / blue state" crud by now? Can those of you in New York complain for the rest of us? How did a Network TV graphics decision 18 years ago come to dominate political strategy?

Or has facebook fired so many journalists that no one at the major papers can come up with geographical metaphors anymore?

because striking without a union is definitely "red, the world about to dawn" not "red, the color used to slur people in places without local papers"
posted by eustatic at 11:38 AM on April 21, 2018 [8 favorites]

Interesting thing yesterday. A co-worker, who is conservative and gripes about taxes all the time and who has often repeated Fox News talking points, walked into my office yesterday and said “I hope Ducey can get his head out of his ass and give the teachers what they deserve.” She agreed with me that all school employees need to be taken care of and get raises as well, and understands and supports the strike.

These teachers have a lot more support than some people might think.
posted by azpenguin at 11:48 AM on April 21, 2018 [14 favorites]

ArbitraryAndCapricious, have those laws been tested out in court? It seems to me that they’d be struck down on First Amendment grounds right quick. But I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know if this has been in front of a judge yet.
posted by azpenguin at 11:49 AM on April 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

ArbitraryAndCapricious, have those laws been tested out in court? It seems to me that they’d be struck down on First Amendment grounds right quick.
Don't think so. The law against strikes is actually from the '70s, but there hasn't been a lot of incentive to test it since then, because there were other laws in place that gave teachers some leverage in collective bargaining. This year, the Republicans took over and passed laws which severely curtailed collective bargaining rights for all public sector workers except cops and firefighters, and then they passed a big tax cut (and are about to pass an even bigger one), which will give them an excuse to say that they can't afford to pay teachers decently or fund their retirement or healthcare. And now the no-strike thing really matters, because there's no other recourse.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:00 PM on April 21, 2018

Nurses and healthcare workers take note. You don't need a union when you have a private Facebook group. I suspect there'd be plenty of support for them, too.
posted by irisclara at 1:17 PM on April 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

It is suuuuper interesting to me that the OK teachers got a significant raise, but couldn't win increased funding for the schools themselves.

When we went on strike in Seattle a couple years ago, most of our message was about school funding rather than our own salaries. Pay was a big and important issue (especially since the district demanded a half-hour increase in our day and didn't factor that in on our pay). But we had a bucket of other legitimate funding and equity issues, too, and that played a huge role in keeping the public on our side. Every other local strike in recent years had faltered under a bunch of "those greedy teachers" bullshit rhetoric.

We kept people informed on our funding & equity stuff in spite of local media, too. The Seattle Times and local news kept focusing on pay, 'cause that's an easier binary thing to focus on. But the parents knew. They knew, because we kept talking about it. Even among ourselves, it was the bigger issue. And that mattered for messaging.

To see the OK legislature pass a pay raise but refuse to do things to actually improve the schools? That says a lot. And that should be hammered constantly.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:17 PM on April 21, 2018 [14 favorites]

Also, there was a lot of talk about how it was illegal for us to strike in Seattle, too. This was mitigated by 1) our union's lawyer being so obviously much sharper than anyone the district ever trotted out, and 2) it's lefty-leaning Seattle.

Arresting and fining thousands of teachers is a big political risk anywhere, though. Not all states are the same, so that risk won't be the same everywhere. But anyone who wants to enforce a law like that against a whole district, let alone a state, is gonna have to calculate the political costs they'll have to pay for it.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:28 PM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

At PTA meetings and mommy-and-me classes and things I've been hearing the newest verse to Wheels on the Bus:
The teachers on the bus say, We're on strike! We're on strike! We're on strike!
With a raised fist as the motion, of course. I think it started as a twitter joke but a lot of parents are actually adopting it in solidarity. We're definitely using it in our house!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:49 PM on April 21, 2018 [16 favorites]

The teachers on the bus say, We're on strike! We're on strike! We're on strike!

So I just sang this to my 11mo old son along with the actions and he joined in, so the teachers can count on him.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 4:55 PM on April 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

"You don't need a union when you have a private Facebook group."

Well, I'm not sure that's true at all. But also, it probably isn't useful to think of 'private' spaces on the internet as private. Perhaps 'nonpublic', but it can be useful to assume that everything you write will eventually be shared with the world, or your political opponent. Potentially immediately.
posted by el io at 1:55 PM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Phoenix police estimate over 50,000. Things were not quiet here in Tucson either, according to some friends who work downtown.
posted by egregious theorem at 4:25 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

50,000 University of California employees go on strike today. California's economy is the 5th largest in the world (recently surpassing Great Britain) and the UC system is its single largest employer.
posted by contraption at 8:06 AM on May 7, 2018

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