February 14, 2019

America’s Teachers Are Furious: From West Virginia to Los Angeles, educators are ushering in a new era of labor activism

Protests in LA and Colorado follow many others around the country. Last February, roughly 20,000 teachers in all of West Virginia’s 55 counties walked out. A month or so later, teachers in Oklahoma boycotted their classrooms; Kentucky’s educators staged their own strike that same day in early April, as did their counterparts in Arizona a few weeks later, picketing for a week. Later, a one-day rally by teachers in North Carolina forced numerous school districts to cancel classes. And last month, unionized educators in one of Chicago’s largest charter networks walked off the job—the first strike of its kind in the country’s history.

Taken together, these strikes amount to an unprecedented wave of teacher activism. For several decades, teachers’ unions generally shied away from striking. While strikes occasionally cropped up due to frustrations over demanding requirements and stagnant pay, they typically did so as isolated blips, generating little attention beyond the affected locale. A similarly significant period of teacher strikes arguably hasn’t happened since 1968, when large-scale walkouts occurred in Florida, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and New York City, along with smaller-scale ones in cities such as Cincinnati and Albuquerque.

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