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Teacher Strike Wave: By the Numbers
October 04, 2018 / Jasmine Kerrissey
Five percent of all U.S. workers in K-12 public education walked out on strike this spring. It’s by far the biggest spike in teacher strikes in a quarter-century.
The strikers included educators from North Carolina (123,000), Arizona (81,000), Colorado (63,000), Oklahoma (45,000), West Virginia (35,000), Kentucky (26,000), and Jersey City (3,600).
These figures come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks “work stoppages” (strikes and lockouts) involving 1,000 or more workers and lasting one or more shifts. The agency gathers its data from public news sources, such as newspapers and the Internet. (Read More)
Review: It’s Time to Write Women Back into Labor History
September 28, 2018 / Eve Ottenberg
Union women are leading labor forward. You can see it in the flurry of teacher strikes—Los Angeles teachers (see article below) were the latest to authorize one—and in the September walkout by McDonald’s workers in many major cities, an anti-sexual harassment action linked to the Fight for $15.
Teachers union membership is predominately female, and has been so for decades. In fact, elementary school teaching in the 1970s was a very low-paid “pink-collar ghetto,” wrote noted labor historian Philip Foner in his groundbreaking book, Women and the American Labor Movement—recently reprinted at last, and covering its topic from Jacksonian times to 1982.
Women haven’t always been at home in the labor movement. Women workers struggled through the 19th and 20th centuries to be accepted not just by management but also by male-dominated unions. For decades the AFL did little more than pay lip service to equal pay for equal work. But not so the Industrial Workers of the World, nor later the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
Unlike the AFL, the IWW in the early 20th century employed women as organizers. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the “rebel girl” of Joe Hill’s song. A socialist and labor radical, she held an executive position in the IWW.
Women were crucial in the great 1936-7 CIO organizing campaigns. This was the era of the wildly successful sit-down strike—before the Supreme Court declared that union tool illegal. In 1937, Foner writes, “there were 477 sit-down strikes, affecting over 300,000 workers.” (Read More)
Are Los Angeles Teachers Next?
September 25, 2018 / Samantha Winslow
Who’s next to join the strike wave? The nation’s second-largest teachers local, in Los Angeles, kicked off the school year with a strike authorization vote. With 81 percent of teachers voting, 98 percent backed a strike if mediation fails this fall. After working hard to get out the vote across L.A.’s 900 schools and 35,000 members, this landslide result was “the best feeling ever,” said teacher and union rep Karla Griego. For 18 months, bargaining has gone nowhere. “There’s a broad sense that our district is in decline, is headed in the wrong direction,” said United Teachers Los Angeles Vice President Daniel Barnhart. “If we don’t all step up and do something about it, things are going to get worse.”
L.A. teachers are seeking a 6.5 percent pay increase, but also much more. Their demands include lowering class sizes, slowing the growth of charter schools, stopping the humiliating random searches of students by school counselors with metal detectors, and adding more nurses and counselors in high-poverty schools. Seventy-six percent of Los Angeles public school students live in poverty; 25 percent are English language learners.
The school board is led by Superintendent Austin Beutner, a recently appointed investment banker with no education experience. The board has offered a 2 percent raise plus a bonus—and is refusing to bargain over the union’s broader platform of issues. (Read More)
NAFTA 2.0 - WHAT'S THE DEAL?
September 28, 2018 / Dan DiMaggio
What does a renegotiated NAFTA mean for workers in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico? At best, it might stem some of the bleeding.
The presidents of the U.S. and Mexico announced on August 27 that they had reached a deal. A month later, Canada is still out of the agreement, though negotiations are likely to continue over the next few months. Text of the draft deal between the U.S. and Mexico may be published as soon as today.
Workers in all three countries have suffered under a decades-long corporate offensive. Unions and civil society groups have long pushed to amend or scrap the 24-year-old agreement.
NAFTA is blamed for the loss of over a million manufacturing jobs from the U.S. and Canada to low-wage Mexico. It also decimated Mexican farmers and small businesses, helping spur migration to urban areas and into the U.S.
On the campaign trail, now-President Trump pledged to pull the U.S. out of what he termed “the worst trade deal ever.” Once in office, he shifted to renegotiating it. (Read More)