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Sunday, April 22, 2018

What the Teacher Strikes Mean

What the Teacher Strikes Mean:

What the Teacher Strikes Mean

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Around seven years ago, I had a standard wisecrack to explain the standing of workers in the world’s two dominant economies: “China has strikes but no unions; America has unions but no strikes.”
Seven years later, it’s clear we’re becoming more like China every day.
The remarkable upsurge of teachers in Republic-run, largely non-union states that has swept through West Virginia and is now sweeping through Oklahoma and Kentucky, and is poised to descend on Arizona, has returned the mass strike to the United States after decades of relegation to the history books. In each of these states, the teachers unions have something between limited and no legal rights to bargain collectively, and, correspondingly, represent just a hard core of members whose commitment to their union is more a matter of belief than of anticipated reward. And yet, able to mobilize even in non-union terrains through the use of social media, and outraged at their states’ continued opposition to funding public education, the teachers have leapt beyond law and formal organization to press their case.
Union leaders and members have played a key role in these actions, which have ballooned into statewide strikes. But so have rank-and-file teachers who haven’t been members, some of whom established the Facebook pages that they and their co-workers have used to develop their demands, organize their actions, and mobilize their peers. The fact that West Virginia’s teachers refused to go back to work after a preliminary deal was struck, persuading their leaders and colleagues to stay out until the deal was sealed, and then won their demands has clearly prompted their fellow teachers in other states to turn their righteous indignation at their state government’s decade-long starvation of public education into solidaristic militancy.
These actions signal a sea change in more than just labor relations.
These actions signal a sea change in more than just labor relations. They are of a piece with the revolt of the parents in Kansas, where the regressive tax cuts of the Republican governor and legislature had led to nearly a decade of inadequate funding of the state’s schools. Over the past 18 months, the good Republican parents of Kansas ousted so many trickle-down right-wingers in the legislature that the new legislature, overcoming the governor’s vetoes, raised taxes to restore school funding.

Indeed, what the Republican governors and legislators of Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona are now discovering is that, contra the GOP’s Grover Norquist nostrums, their constituents actually don’t want a government so small it can be drowned in a bathtub. They at least want their kids to get an adequate education and want a government that helps them afford medical care and old age.
That’s why the teachers have found their communities supporting them, scaring the bejesus out of their Republican legislators to the point that those legislators have  continue reading: What the Teacher Strikes Mean: