Friday, May 24, 2019

Learning from Our Teachers: The Education Strikes of 2018 - Los Angeles Review of Books

Learning from Our Teachers: The Education Strikes of 2018 - Los Angeles Review of Books

Learning from Our Teachers: The Education Strikes of 2018

Red State Revolt By Eric BlancThe Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class PoliticsPublished 04.23.2019Verso224 Pages


IN SPRING OF 2018, tens of thousands of K–12 educators and support staff in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona went on strike, demanding livable salaries and other concessions from the state. Where did these uprisings in Trump country come from? How were they able to win in states where public sector strikes are illegal and other anti-labor laws prevail? In Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics, Eric Blanc sets out to answer these questions.
The saga began in West Virginia. Teacher salaries were stagnant as state legislators continued to defund public education. At the same time, these politicians granted enormous tax breaks to corporations. They also took a pair of scissors to any document that resembled a pro-labor bill. Although anger among educators had brewed for decades, resignation was the norm. When another premium increase for employee health insurance was announced at the end of 2017, few people had any reason to suspect that there would be resistance in West Virginia.
But there was. After two months of protests and strikes, not only did these employees stop the proposed premium increase, they also forced the state to drop its pro–charter school and anti-labor legislation. In the process, they secured a five percent raise for all state employees. Inspired by the victories in West Virginia, teachers and support staff followed suit in Oklahoma and in Arizona, again forcing the hands of their Tea Party–influenced governments. They achieved more in two months than they had in the past two decades.
What propelled the shift from resignation to resistance? Blanc went to these states to get some answers. Through numerous interviews and a discerning attention to broader issues of labor and politics in the United States, he paints a clear portrait of the forces at work in this historic moment. Of note, he traces the influence of Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign that popularized an alternative to the status quo. His influence was most felt in West Virginia, where he won every county in the Democratic primary. At the level of action, the Sanders campaign pushed people to get involved in grassroots politics. By the time the health-care premium increases in West Virginia were announced, there were a number of self-identified “democratic socialists” with radical ideas and organizing experience.
In the words of West Virginia teacher Emily Comer:
The role of the Bernie campaign of 2016 on organizing in West  CONTINUE READING: Learning from Our Teachers: The Education Strikes of 2018 - Los Angeles Review of Books

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