Author: Lois Weiner

LOIS WEINER, a member of the  New Politics editorial board, writes widely about education, labor, and politics, specializing in teacher unionism. She is currently researching the challenges for teachers unions in the political and economic terrain since 2016.

 

Teacher walkouts in Oklahoma and Kentucky challenge GOP legislatures

Kentucky school districts shut todayTeachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky massed in their respective state capitols on April 2, to demand GOP legislatures revoke  bills damaging to education passed in virtual stealth. The spark plug in Kentucky is a group of activist parents with teachers, #SaveOurSchools Kentucky.  In both states the movement has been organized outside the official teachers unions, using social media as well as traditional organizing techniques of talking with colleagues and neighbors about the issues. Another struggle of teachers is simmering, near boil, in Arizona.

Why support the strike of Jersey City teachers?

 ImageFor some, the decision to support workers who strike is a given.  We defend the right to join a union and exercise the right to strike in every country, as a human right. Defending the rights of workers to organize and withhold their labor when they need to use this weapon is as much a social justice issue as  fighting racism, battling sexism, or protecting immigrants from deportation.

West Virginia’s strike is no “wildcat”

Getting the language right

National City, CA teachers, in a contract fight themselves, show solidarity

National City, CA teachers, in a contract fight themselves, show solidarity

           

West Virginia's school employees teach US labor a huge lesson

ImageAs the AFL-CIO holds its day of action across the US, protesting what has been cast as a likely loss in the Janus case, which the Right intends to use to destroy labor and the Left, a movement of school employees in West Virginia is showing organized labor what it means to be a union without the right to strike and without collective bargaining.

UFT shows how Not to protect unions and the public sector

ImageIn its January meeting, after a pro-forma discussion, the Delegate Assembly of the UFT (United Federation of Teachers), which still has the legal right to bargain collectively on behalf of New York City's teachers, voted down a resolution to work with community groups to support Black Lives Matter in the schools in February. LeRoy Barr, UFT's assistant secretary, co-staff director, and Chairperson of the Unity Caucus, gave the UFT leadership's rationale for rejecting the motion. Support for BLM was, he contended, a splinter issue, divisive, at a time when the union had to stay focused on what was key, the Janus decision and the threat to collective bargaining rights.

Jones Victory in Alabama's Senate Race: Pause in that Sigh of Relief

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Though we wouldn’t know it from mainstream media coverage, the sigh of relief many progressives will breathe at Moore’s defeat should be tempered with the knowledge that Jones will likely not be a reliable ally on issues on which the Democrats should all be expected to fight the GOP and Trump. An exit poll of voter opinions showed over 40% of Alabama voters, Democrats and Republicans alike, gave an unfavorable rating to both parties.

How will labor look after the Janus case is decided?

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The Janus case before the Supreme Court will deny public employee unions the right to require non-union members to pay their share of the union’s costs to negotiate on behalf of everyone in the bargaining unit.

#MeToo

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The #MeToo campaign on social media, women sharing of experiences of sexual harassment, shows how a new generation of women, with male supporters, demands that we examine systemic sexual oppression.  We  will undoubtedly hear complaints that #Me2 is unwarranted. One predictable trope from the Right is what we heard in response to Trump’s pawing and groping: "These are personal matters, not issues that our society has to address. This is life. Get over it." 

Why we need labor unions and why they need critical friends

ImageLabor Day 2017 is a sobering moment for people who care about human dignity, social justice, peace, and a life-sustaining environment. While powerful elites who control government so as to safeguard capitalism are driving civilization towards barbarism and the planet to extinction, Trump’s election has spurred widespread protests. Vigorous social movements are challenging Trump’s and the GOP’s retrograde policies and politics: corrupt, xenophobic, racist, misogynist, malevolent. Sparked by Bernie Sanders’ campaign, we’re seeing a new embrace of socialism, especially among younger activists.

Union Democracy and Organizing Teachers in Charter Schools

Guest Blog by David Koenig

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In June, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) proudly announced that teachers at Cesar Chavez Prep Charter School in Washington, DC charter school were the first to vote to form a charter school union in DC. What the AFT has not discussed was the decision of AFT organizers to withdraw a petition for a vote at a larger DC charter school, at Paul Public Charter School, one of the first charter schools in DC. Meanwhile, teachers in the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff have voted overwhelmingly to merge with the Chicago Teachers Union. Their statement foregrounds the need for union democracy: “If you trust teachers, then you should trust their democratic voice — their union. Unions make schools, both district and charter, work better.”

Standing in Solidarity with Sarah Chambers

A Teacher Who Stands Up For Kids

Sarah Chambers is an award winning special education teacher in Chicago’s Saucedo Academy. Sarah is a local leader a national figure in the fight to defend and transform public education against the corporate education reform attack. She is a relentless advocate for special education students and LGBTQ students. Sarah is a published author, organizer, and speaker on issues of education reform and social justice.

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A Teacher Who's Dangerous – To Chicago's Power Elite

ImageDuring the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) spring break, Sarah Chambers, beloved to her special needs students, well-known (to staff and parents of her school), notorious (to CPS labor relations officials), received a letter saying she was suspended and had to stay away from the school.  Though Sarah was an early member of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) that is now the CTU’s elected leadership,  she remained a teacher of special needs kids who represents her school in the House of Delegates and serves on the union’s Executive Board.

Public Education and Teachers Unions at a Crossroads

Public education is truly at a crossroads in the US, as are both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA). 

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Labor and "Pussy Power"

 ImageThe Women’s March was glorious. Yes,  I disagree with much said in the speeches, but that wasn’t an issue because like the vast majority of people who participated, I didn’t go to hear celebrities or politicians talk.  I participated to show my rage and frustration at Donald Trump and the policies he and the GOP are preparing to impose on us. Women like me, disgusted, dismayed, enraged at Donald Trump’s misogyny, which the GOP has endorsed, flooded to this demonstration.  

We brought family, friends, supporters, male and female, protesting the human rights and climate deniers whom Trump has brought with him into office. There was some diversity but this was primarily a march of young White women who carried signs about their bodies, “Pussy power” being the most prominent at the New York march.  “Pussy power” strikes me as especially apt. Like women who fight patriarchy, it’s naughty. It evokes the strength in numbers. Most of all, the march birthed a new social movement which will owe its life to pussy.

For liberals, inconvenient truths about Democrats and unions

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What makes Nikhil Goyal’s analysis of the dangers in Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education so useful, beyond its incisive discussion of education reform, is that it captures the essence of the conundrum liberals face about fighting Trump on his Achilles heel: the grip the wealthy and powerful have on government which he will tighten.

Trump’s Victory: What American Federation of Teachers President Weingarten should say

ImageRandi Weingarten, who engineered the 1.6 million member union’s early endorsement of Hillary Clinton has issued a statement about the election, lamenting that voters chose to believe Trump about economic insecurity, rather than hearing the identical message, sent by Clinton and unions.

Reimagine Possibilities this Labor Day

ImageIn presidential election years, by Labor Day most US labor unions have long halted organizing, shifting most of their human and financial resources to elect a Democrat to the White House. Members are told having a Democratic president will give us — that is, union officials — access to politicians with whom they can negotiate over labor’s concerns.

Why Mexico's teachers are fighting: CNTE's program

An activist/scholar in the Mexican teachers union democratic opposition (CNTE) has asked me to publicize this statement (copied below).  It explains the demands the movement is making on the government and fleshes out the short but excellent update on The Real News about the struggle.  As this statement shows, CNTE and its supporters  are struggling about far more than their jobs.

#Brexit, Support for Mexico's Teachers, and Solidarity From Below

To show support for Mexico's teachers, demonstrations are being held internationally, as they are in the U.S.  In today's blog about the situation in Mexico, Mary Compton provides background to the current repression and information about how readers can support the teachers.

A May Day Message to Teachers – On the Front Lines of a War on Public Education

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(These are my remarks at an evening panel of what its organizers referred to as a "non-conference" so as to convey the need for participants to interact with one another's ideas, rather than present papers. Sessions spanned two full days. The two evening sessions were videotaped. When they are made available I will post them on New Politics.)

Chicago teachers (again) rewrite a playbook stacked against labor

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The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike April 1 is not primarily about increased school funding, standardized testing, pensions for teachers, or even just corporate taxation, though the union is fighting for all of these. The strike is about democracy, especially who owns our society’s resources and how decisions about those resources are made.

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