Teacher Strikes Grow Across Several States

The Issue:

Over the last two months, teachers in different states have either gone on strike or threatened to strike, demanding better pay, better school conditions, more funding for education in state budgets, and other related policy changes. These kinds of strikes by teachers have been historically rare. They are occuring at the moment in states that have made significant cuts to education funding and that have comparatively fewer legal protections for unions and organized labor. These strikes are also coming ahead of what is expected to be a very significant U.S. Supreme Court ruling this spring on teacher dues.

  • On February 22, teachers in West Virginia went on strike for almost two weeks. The teachers negotiated a five percent raise for their return and also won several related policy fights relating to the state healthcare system, proposed changes to employee seniority, the deduction of union dues from teacher paychecks, and a proposed expansion of charter schools.
  • In Oklahoma, a strike by teachers is now in its second week. The Oklahoma legislature passed a large tax increase on Friday that would increase teachers’ salaries by an average of $6,000, but the striking teachers have also made specific demands regarding the repeal of a capital gains tax deduction and and the repeal of a bill that ends a statewide hotel/motel tax. The teachers have not yet specified what percentage of the funds gained from these tax increases should be allocated to education.
  • Teachers in Kentucky staged a large protest at the state Capitol last week, and are contemplating large walkouts following the state Governor’s promise to veto a budget bill and tax reform bill that were passed by the legislature last week. Both bills would have increased state funding for education. Teachers in the state are currently contemplating another protest on Friday of this week.   
  • In Arizona, around 2,500 teachers rallied at the state Capitol last week, and issued a list of demands to state legislators. Those demands includes a 20 percent pay raise for teachers, restoring state education funding levels to 2008 levels, and an end to tax cuts in the state until the state’s per-pupil funding level reaches the national average.

The Process:

While negotiations continue in Oklahoma, teachers in Kentucky and Arizona will soon be deciding whether to conduct their own strikes. It is unclear whether teachers in other states will follow suit. Sometime in the next two months, the United States Supreme Court will issue a ruling in Janus vs American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. This case is likely to resolve the question of whether workers that are covered by a union can be required to contribute towards the costs of their representation. It is widely expected that the Court will rule against this requirement.

Learn More:

Be a Part of the Process:

  • Take Action: Talk with members of your state legislature about teacher pay and school conditions. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a tool for connecting with your state lawmakers. You can also find contact information for individual state legislators on your state legislature’s website.