Teachers Strikes: A New Class Politics Emerging

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1848 ... June 18, 2019

Teachers’ Strikes: A New Class Politics Emerging

Eric Blanc

In the spring of 2018, teachers and school staff across the United States fought back and won. By walking out for better pay and school funding, hundreds of thousands of educators etched their imprint onto the course of history. The strike wave sparked by West Virginia produced a range of major victories. It also produced some great stories. While interviewing school employees during and after the walkouts, I’d always make sure to ask about their favorite moment of the struggle so far.

Some recounted the exhilaration of personally confronting a conservative politician. Many emphasized how proud they were of having become an organizer. Others told me about the joy of their first day back at school, when students thanked and high-fived them for taking a stand. More than a few were just relieved that they could now pay the rent.

I was particularly moved by stories about small acts of support from strangers. Abby Broome, a teacher in Putnam County, West Virginia, wrote to... me about one such experience. Her letter poignantly describes how the strike imbued routine interactions with a spirit of solidarity:

"I was walking to my car probably 4 or 5 blocks from the state capitol. I was alone, have to admit kind of insecure as I’m a young woman and I was alone in unfamiliar territory and it was getting late. I was wearing my strike sign around my neck, had on my red bandana and red strike shirt. I passed a bus stop where a couple people were waiting for the shelter. Under different circumstances, I don’t think any of us would have acknowledged each other. (We should have.) But this time one of the men spoke and said, ‘I support you. It’s awesome what you all are doing. Keep fighting.’

"Honestly, I was shocked. For weeks we had been ridiculed by some of our elected officials, the media, our own governor. But I learned that night that we had the support of hardworking people who know the struggle, working people probably having to take the city bus to work, people who fight every day to make ends meet, people who truly cared about what we were doing. It really changed things for me. I was tired like everyone else. I wanted things to get back to normal. But I felt energized and respected like I never had. I was proud. We were doing something bigger than ourselves. I think we were giving other people a little hope."

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