Ten Years Ago, Chicago Teachers Gave Us All a Jolt of Hope

Alexandra Bradbury

Labor Notes | September 10, 2022

Chicago teachers marched in a mass rally on May 23, 2012, part of the ramp-up to their big strike that fall. Photo: Sarah Ji, loveandstrugglephotos.com.

On the tenth anniversary of the Chicago Teachers Union’s groundbreaking strike, we’re reissuing our award-winning book How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers. This is the new introduction.

If you feel like your union needs a jump-start—whether you’re a longtime shop steward or just started your first union job—this book is for you.

The impulse you have (“This union could be stronger and better, and I want to help change it”) makes you part of a long tradition—what we at Labor Notes affectionately call the trouble-making wing of the labor movement.

One basic principle unites us troublemakers. We believe democracy, meaning broad member participation at every level of the union, is the heart of union power.

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Major Teachers Union Will Back ‘Safety Strikes’ to Block Unsafe School Reopening

Laura Clawson

DAILY KOS | July 29, 2020


TAMPA, FL - JULY 16: First grade teacher Yolanda Vasquez stands in protest along with other teachers and counselors in front of the Hillsborough County Schools District Office on July 16, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Teachers and administrators from Hillsborough County Schools rallied against the reopening of schools due to health and safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

The American Federation of Teachers will support its members if they decide to strike over the rush to reopen schools without regard for safety, the union announced Tuesday. The union has been pushing for increased federal funding to help schools reopen safely, but with Mitch McConnell’s Senate taking its sweet time and Donald Trump demanding in-person schooling regardless of safety, teachers can’t just sit and wait.

“Nothing is off the table when it comes to the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve,” the resolution from the 1.7 million-member union’s executive council reads, “including supporting local and/or state affiliate safety strikes on a case-by-case basis as a last resort.”

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Chicago teachers, support staff strike

by John Bachtell

People’s World | October 17, 2019

Chicago teachers, support staff strike
Teachers, parents, and community supporters march through downtown Chicago on Oct. 14. | John Bachtell / PW

CHICAGO—Thousands of teachers and support staff are on strike this morning, Oct. 17, after the city failed to reach an agreement with them. Despite ten months of bargaining, the sides remain far apart on restoring staffing levels decimated over the past few decades.

Chicago Public Schools yesterday announced the cancellation of classes for today.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has joined in solidarity with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 vowing to create quality schools and parks for all. SEIU represents about 80% of Park District employees, school custodians, special education aides, and security guards. Without an agreement, the unions, representing over 30,000 workers, have gone out on strike together.

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U.S: An analysis of the 2019 Oakland teachers strike


MR Online | June 06, 2019

2019 Oakland teachers strike

Could [striking Oakland teachers] have won more? No. The question is how could they have won more?…I congratulate them for what they did pull off…and I hope that … every critic of that strike has been knee-deep, building the structures since the day the strike ended, instead of just complaining about it, because that’s what it takes to win bigger next time. We win in relationship to the power we build.

—Jane McAlevey, author of No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age,
Interview from “The Dig” podcast, March 27, 2019

The important thing is not to stop questioning.

—Albert Einstein, LIFE Magazine, May 2, 1955

The recent seven-day strike by the Oakland Education Association (OEA) was eerily similar in key ways to its 26-day strike in 1996. Both strikes demanded that Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) “chop from the top” of its bloated administration to fund better learning conditions and fair pay. In 1996 the learning-condition demand was smaller class size. In 2019 educators also demanded class size reduction, but also smaller caseloads for counselors, nurses, and other student-support services. Another focus this time was stopping the district’s plan to close 24 schools in Black and Brown communities. Both strikes had very strong picket lines and community support. And both strikes ended with a resounding “What just happened?”Read More »

50,000 teachers take part in New Zealand’s largest education strike

Peoples Dispatch | May 29, 2019

New Zealand teachers' strike

As many as 50,000 teachers across New Zealand went on strike on May 29 to demand a pay hike and better working conditions. Members of education unions NZEI Te Riu Roa, which represents primary school teachers, and the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA), which represents secondary school teachers, voted to jointly call the strike when negotiations with the Ministry of Education reached a deadlock earlier this month. This will be the largest teachers’ strike the country has ever seen.

The teachers are demanding a pay increase of up to 15-16%. Apart from increased wages, they are also seeking reduced workload, and more classroom resources. The teachers are also calling on the government to devise long-term solutions to address increasing underemployment in the teaching sector. The average wage for primary school teachers is about USD 47,980 a year, which equates to about USD 23 an hour (USD 5.30 above the minimum wage).Read More »

Oregon teachers, parents, students walk out to demand more school dollars

by Mark Gruenberg

People’s World | May 09, 2019

Oregon teachers, parents, students walk out to demand more school dollars

Oregon Education Association photo.

PORTLAND, Ore.–More than 20,000 Oregon public school teachers statewide — at least two-thirds of all teachers in the state — walked out of classes on May 8 to demand more state funds to fix crumbling schools and provide up-to-date textbooks.

Tens of thousands of students and parents joined the teachers, with 25,000 people marching in Portland alone. The Oregon Education Association, the state’s NEA affiliate, organized the walkout, and NEA national President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia addressed the crowd.

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U.S: Weingarten: Teachers strikes “successful examples” of community-based action benefiting workers

by Mark Gruenberg

Peoples’ World | March 18, 2019

Weingarten: Teachers strikes “successful examples” of community-based action benefiting workers

The teachers’ strike in West Virginia  last year was a shot heard across the nation with teachers all over the country following suit with strikes and job actions. | John Raby/AP

NEW ORLEANS—The wave of teachers’ walkouts and strikes for almost a year – forced on the workers by penny-pinching and tax-cutting GOP administrations and politicians – represent “successful examples” of community-based action where victories benefit everyone, says Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten.

That’s because those walkouts, in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Denver, Los Angeles, among Chicago charter school teachers and now in Indiana and at Summit Academy in Parma, Ohio, centered not around pay and pensions, but around what’s best for schools and kids, she adds.

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U.S: Oakland educators join the nationwide wave of teacher strikes

by Marilyn Bechtel

Peoples’ World | February 22, 2019

Oakland educators join the nationwide wave of teacher strikes

Marilyn Bechtel/PW

OAKLAND, Calif. – Joining the wave of teachers’ strikes that are sweeping the country, Oakland teachers and school staff hit early-morning picket lines throughout the Oakland Unified School District’s 86 elementary, middle and high schools Feb. 21, before packing the City Hall plaza for a lively noontime rally with other union leaders and members, parents, students and community supporters.

The teachers have been without a contract since July 2017 and are the lowest-paid in Alameda County and among the lowest-paid in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the cost of living is among the highest in the country.Read More »

L.A. teachers strike: Wearing red for ed on rainy Day One

by Eric A. Gordon

People’s World | January 15, 2019

L.A. teachers strike: Wearing red for ed on rainy Day One

LOS ANGELES—At Hamilton High School in West Los Angeles, United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) chapter chair Frank Burton had his team prepared for heavy rain: As his fellow teachers arrived for the 7 a.m. picket line and approached the tent supplied with coffee and refreshments, Frank unfolded yet another plastic poncho and slipped it over a new arrival’s head. By his count, every single one of “Hammie’s” 140 teachers, plus others represented by the union, such as the librarian and counselors, turned out to be counted on Day One.Read More »

Los Angeles teachers stage first strike in 30 years demanding city invests in public education

by Ben Coweles

Morning StarJanuary 15, 2019

MORE than 30,000 striking teachers flooded the rainy streets of downtown Los Angeles on Monday demanding the city properly invest in its educators and schools.

The strike, organised by the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union, is the first time teachers have walked out the classroom in LA since 1989.Read More »