Around the United States, teachers are striking in protest of classroom overcrowding, poverty wages, unmanageable workloads, and understaffing – and in many cases, their voices are being heard.
The most recent example is in Oakland, where the local teachers’ union and school officials made a deal that included a total of $38 million in pay raises, an 11 per cent pay raise over four years, and increased hiring of school counselors, psychologists and special education teachers.
The agreement comes after a year of contract negotiations in one of the country’s richest states. Teachers in Los Angeles also struck in January in opposition to huge class sizes and a lack of proper resources.
Go Deeper: Listen to a teaser of The Cable’s podcast episode on how striking teachers are winning victories across America.
More than 100,000 public school teachers in six states have walked out of their classrooms in protest in the past year – here’s an overview of the other places around America where teachers are making waves.
Teachers in Denver went on strike for three days this February, demanding an overhaul of their compensation system which relies on bonuses that fluctuate wildly from year to year. The union ended up negotiating for $23 million in pay raises, an 11.7 per cent salary increase, and elimination of the unreliable compensation system.
Last February, teachers in West Virginia led a strike that has been called “perhaps the most significant worker strike in years” to demand a solution to the 700-position statewide teacher shortage in the state. It resulted in the approval of a five per cent pay increase for educators across the state, and sparked momentum for other educators across the country to mobilize.
In April 2018, about 81,000 teachers went on strike to oppose low pay and cuts to public education funding. The week-long strike resulted in a 20 per cent pay increase across the board worth $644 million.
“The neglect was too long, and everyone knew it, and nobody in the legislature would do anything about it,” said David Berliner, a professor emeritus at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “The governor wouldn’t do anything about it until the teachers essentially said, ‘Fuck you,’ and they walked out.”
Teachers in Oklahoma organized the second-largest strike of 2018 in April, with 45,000 staff leaving work for nine days in opposition of wages that ranked 49th lowest in the country. They demanded $3.3 billion over three years in additional funding, but ended up getting $479 million in extra funding.
Teachers across America are showing that strikes are a key tool in winning concessions from recalcitrant legislators. Workers in other industries should look to teachers for a path to securing the wages and benefits they deserve.