Teacher Walkouts Rekindle Hope for American Labor Movement

Seth Plush, Editor

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     As teacher protests and walkouts continue across the United States, Arizona teachers have recently voted to strike, joining West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky teachers, who have been staging strikes since February. This wave of dissent over low school funding and low pay among teachers is indicative not only of the success of labor agitation within the public sector, but also of a reinvigoration of class consciousness and solidarity within heartland America. 

     The notion of the underpaid public school teacher has been ingrained in the collective American consciousness for decades, a problem that has always existed, but never been solved. The rhetoric surrounding the issue has seemed sympathetic, yet distinctly passive:the phrase “Isn’t it sad how little teachers are paid?” became commonplace, while few solutions were ever mentioned or attempted.

     However, as West Virginia teachers carried out a surprise strike in early 2018, the conversation surrounding public education funding and teacher pay began to take a noticeably different tone. As the West Virginia teachers ended their dispute successfully, and the Kentucky and Oklahoma teachers began theirs, support from around the nation began to increase, and the American public awoke to the idea that the issue of education funding is a solvable one.

     While it is somewhat unclear what the particular spark was for this movement, the far reaching effects of it remain a testament to its importance. The fact that such large scale change was brought about through the use of collective bargaining has given needed rejuvenation to long-dormant American labor movement as a whole. Not since the Postal Worker’s strike of 1970 have government workers refused to work on such a large scale, or managed to pull such large support from the general American public.

     This support is essential to the paradigm shift that is unfolding. In almost every state in the U.S., teachers have either walked out or protested in solidarity and have received support from students and community members alike. In Oklahoma, the construction workers tasked with renovating the capitol building stopped working and even joined the teacher’s picket lines.

     What the teacher’s movement reveals is the reinvention of the collective spirit of the American people rejecting the economic status quo. Dissatisfaction with the current state of American economics, which put profits above social responsibility and any ethical principles, has seemingly begun to reach its climax. The broader American public has grown tired of their ineffective governments, both state and federal, that prioritize the opulent salaries of its own politicians rather than of those who educate millions of children. This gross upside-down logic is reflected through almost all aspects of modern America, and it is only now that we are beginning to see change. But change that comes late is better that change that never comes, and it is becoming clear that there is still hope for the future.

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