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.


Teachers in British Colombia are on strike and deserve our help



Labor Day and the right to be lazy – at all ages

                     This Labor Day, let’s celebrate “the right to be lazy.” Let’s play, dream, and imagine what a world without alienated labor would be.

Interview with Sam Gindin on 'The Making of Global Capitalism'

         Sam Gindin, former Research Director of the Canadian Auto Workers union and co-author with Leo Panitch of “The making of global capitalism” graciously agreed to answer questions from NP board members about his book when he and I participated in a conference at the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

An open letter to Frank Bruni about tenure for NYC teachers

Dear Frank Bruni,

            I enjoyed your restaurant reviews in the NY Times. Reading your descriptions of the food and ambience allowed me to experience vicariously many restaurants. We seem to have a similar sensibility — about food.  You seemed not to allow  restaurant publicity and PR to influence your ratings or judgment, maybe because you know good food and the restaurant business thoroughly enough so that you could see through hype.

Fireworks in both US teachers unions

            Both US teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), held their national conventions in July. For the first time in decades the conventions were marked by challenges to union leaders on educational policies, including union approval of the Common Core and union leader's unwillingness to take on the Obama administration and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education.

The Teachers’ Trifecta

Democracy, Social Justice, Mobilization

ImageAcross the United States, we are in the midst of a great struggle over the nation’s education system. On one side is a bipartisan effort to privatize schools and undermine the promise of public education. Opposing that effort are large numbers of parents and teachers. 

Understanding the attack on teacher tenure – Guest blog by Doug Mann

Guest blog: This week I have a commentary by a reader. Doug Mann provides background about the issue of tenure for teachers in Minneapolis. His analysis, identifying how the Right has pushed this issue and why systemic racism has to be named in defending teachers’ rights to due process, applies in most respects to other urban school districts.  Doug is the Green Party candidate for Minneapolis School Board, citywide, and an education activist.


Explaining the defeat of tenure and teachers unions in Vergara

Tenure and teacher unions suffered a defeat this week when a California court ruled in the Vergara case that the state's law giving teachers tenure violated California's constitution.  I've blogged about why the claims in Vergara were manufactured to pit students against teachers.

Reimagining and remaking union solidarity

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) hosted a conference on global education “reform” May 24, bringing together NUT activists with union leaders and scholars from the global south and north. My blog this week adapts my presentation, which along with papers from others (all quite informative) will be published on the Research Collaborative of

Hats off to Philly's Caucus of Working Educators (CWE)

  ImageThis brief story about the Philly TAG (Teacher Activist Group) conference suggests what was special about the occasion but it misses what was the most salient political feature of the conclave.  Philly teachers who are committed to social justice have formed a caucus in their union, an AFT l

New faces and base-building

           Image In studying urban teacher preparation (the hat I wear professionally when I’m not thinking about teacher unionism), I examine how school practices and organization influence teachers and students.  To understand what goes on inside classrooms we have to look at the welter of powerful influences within schools and outside their walls.  Blaming “teacher quality” f

Teacher Appreciation Week: How to #thankateacher

            This is “Teacher Appreciation Week.”  Should we mark the occasion? How? Why?

Teachers unions need critical friends

            Union Power’s sweep of the election for union officers in United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) signals a seismic shift in power relations in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Teachers, teachers unions and the “Common Core”: This is a test


1. More rigorous academic standards required by the new national curriculum, Common Core Curriculum Standards (CCSS) and its high-tech national test PARCC controlled by Pearson will alter employment for US students by making them “college and career ready.”

2. The Common Core Curriculum Standards are a “state-led” initiative.

NEA feels the heat

 Raveresized           It’s official.  Colorado teachers and parents have launched a state-wide caucus, RAVE, that aims to transform both the AFT and NEA affiliates in their state. To my knowledge theirs is the first caucus that includes teachers in both AFT and NEA as well as parent activists.  They’ve also reached out to student groups who oppose testing.

"Teacher jail" in Los Angeles now "jail teacher" in NYC

Intimidation of US teachers has become truly chilling. Denver has a "do not hire" list on which any school employee can be placed by any supervising administrator. Los Angeles, like New York City, can assign a school employee to what LA teachers have referred to as "teacher jail," and NYC the "rubber room."  School employees are sent to a room where they are not permitted to do anything productive, languishing while the administration drags its feet in pursuing claims of misconduct, hoping the teachers will be worn out and quit.

Race, racism and teachers unions: Making the connections

            This past week I participated in a “Don’t tread on educators” workshop for NYC teachers who are fighting against having been given unsatisfactory ratings by supervisors. They shared personal stories of being singled out for punishment after years of satisfactory service and of their union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) that will not support them and worse, often collaborates at the highest levels with the administration in pushing them out of their careers.

Two important precedents in building social movement teachers unions

            One week, two precedents.

The local and global in capitalism's project: A snapshot today

              ImageOne can’t know from old modes of media, now state or corporate-controlled in every country I know of, how extensive resistance is to the destruction of systems of public education created in the past century, through struggles of working people to improve their children’s lives.  (The best chronicle of these struggles is Read more ›

Militancy, social justice, and democracy: Teachers unions need them all

                         It’s hard for people who have never been on strike to understand how transformative the experience can be, especially if the job is one’s life work.  All of sudden, power relations are reversed. Workers are calling the shots about what they will and will not do.  Life in school is so routinized that anything new can cause shock waves, and a strike by teachers is a tsunami.

Social movement teacher unionism in the NEA? In the South? As sure as there is BBQ

              ImageWe’re seeing social movement teacher unionism arise in the South, in NEA, in Organize2020, a hardy band of activists who intend to transform their NEA state affiliate, North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE).  I was invited to speak at their first state-wide conference but when we were iced