In February 2018, 35,000 public school educators and staff walked off the job in West Virginia. More than 100,000 teachers in other states—both right-to-work states, like West Virginia, and those with a unionized workforce—followed them over the next year. From Arizona, Kentucky, and Oklahoma to Colorado and California, teachers announced to state legislators that not only their abysmal wages but the deplorable conditions of their work and the increasingly straitened circumstances of public education were unacceptable. These recent teacher walkouts affirm public education as a crucial public benefit and understand the rampant disinvestment in public education not simply as a local issue affecting teacher paychecks but also as a danger to communities and to democracy.
Strike for the Common Good gathers together original essays, written by teachers involved in strikes nationwide, by students and parents who have supported them, by journalists who have covered these strikes in depth, and by outside analysts (academic and otherwise). Together, the essays consider the place of these strikes in the broader landscape of recent labor organizing and battles over public education, and attend to the largely female workforce and, often, largely non-white student population of America’s schools.
Rebecca Kolins Givan is Associate Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers University.
Amy Schrager Lang is Professor Emerita, Syracuse University.