International Labor Action for Rank and File Teachers: In the Fight for Free Public Education — Beware the Union “Leadership”: A.S. Read1 Feb
This is a recent article from our newest newsletter analyzing the OEA contract struggle. We post it here so you can access the citations and hyperlinks. Here, A.S. Read brings the international perspective by taking us to Sri Lanka and Namibia where, recently, some very militant teacher strikes have taken place. Each points out the potential power of teachers when united but also the dangers of being sold out by bureaucratized union leadership.
International Labor Action for Rank and File Teachers: In the Fight for Free Public Education — Beware the Union “Leadership”
By A.S. Read
In the United States and countries all over the world there still remains an institution that links people towards a common goal. This goal, literacy, is entirely necessary for all working people to navigate the complex and increasingly oppressive nature of “civilized” society (aka Capitalist Society). There are many definitions of what literacy entails (most rates are based on the ability to read and write at a specified age), overall it is estimated that the worldwide literacy rate is around 80%. 1 I would argue the institution responsible, for what is arguably an impressive percentage, is free public education. Yet, assaults on this institution are taking place in countries all over the world. As these attacks get more and more aggressive, rank and file teachers continue to fight back and prevent further losses to collective bargaining rights, despite the tendency of capitulation and self-interest from union bureaucrats.
This article will highlight two recent labor struggles where teachers courageously went on strike in response to the continuing global assault on public education manifesting in their regional schools. University teachers in Sri Lanka went on a three month strike 2 and K-12 teachers in Namibia went out on a wildcat strike that lasted two weeks 3. Both actions were bittersweet considering in each country it was the agency of the teachers that drove the strikes; however, it was the treachery of the union bureaucrats (ie. collaboration with the state) “representing” the teachers that ended the actions with minimal or no concrete gains. This article also provides context for this labor union sabotage and ideas for teachers to push the struggle forward.
This is a recent article from our newest newsletter analyzing the OEA contract struggle. We post it here so you can access the citations and hyperlinks. Here, Aram Mendoza analyzes the current contract negotiations of OEA and its importance for Oakland teachers and, more widely, the needs of Oakland students. Aram also raises some very concrete tactics and next steps for individual teachers and teachers as a whole.
Why Teachers Should Care About the Contract
By Aram Mendoza
Oakland teachers, do we care about having a union?
Do we care about having a good contract?
What is an imposition and what should teachers do about it?
These are not rhetorical questions.
The reality is that we have been under an imposed “contract” since 2010. What does this mean? Simply put: Tony Smith and the OUSD school board have unilaterally, dictatorially, and undemocratically imposed terms of work upon education workers. It means that the “last, best, and final” offer was put on the table by the OUSD district bargaining team and was NOT agreed to by the OEA bargaining team. Though this imposition was carried out in April of 2010 (which was why OEA’s last strike was in that same month), it was not the last time that Smith and the Board have imposed on education workers: last year’s “Accelerated TSA” campaign was imposed on Fremont, McClymonds, and Castlemont teachers without any public, democratic process. More on this later.
Back to our current contract situation – we must ask: does our contract really matter? As I’ve talked to co-workers and friends who are teachers in Oakland’s public schools I’ve come to see the total lack of information that we have in relation to our own contractual agreement with the district.
As the privatization agenda moves forward and attacks teachers and students it’s sometimes forgotten how school support workers are affected. At least in Oakland, custodial workers have gone years without a raise and numerous positions have been outsourced. A key and often overlooked outsourced position is afterschool workers. Increasingly they have been expected to shoulder more teaching–without any of the benefits and protections of teachers–as teachers have been cut and overburdened. All this points to a basic tenet of labor: “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
In that vein, this article looks at the current New York City school bus drivers’ strike. They have walked out to prevent their union from being busted as Mayor Bloomberg continues his offensive against school workers. The strike is placed in this context of the larger attack on public education and its workers while pointing out the negative effects on students, particularly on special needs students and students who have lost their neighborhood schools to closures. Clearly, there are overlaps for Oakland.
The original article can be found at: http://occupy.com/article/new-york-citys-bus-strike-critical-juncture.
New York City’s Bus Strike At Critical Juncture
Mon, 01/21/2013 – 14:10
By Peter Rugh
The wheels on New York City’s school buses aren’t going round in what’s becoming a familiar song these days in America: education workers resisting attempts to balance budgets on their backs at the expense of students learning.
The current school bus strike in the Big Apple is no exception.
Last week’s walkout follows a successful strike by the Chicago Teachers Union last year against layoffs and the knotting of pay to standardized test results. Before that, teachers were a leading force in the 2011 occupation of Wisconsin’s capitol building in opposition to legislation that stripped state employees of collective bargaining rights. The measure passed but large sections of it were later ruled unconstitutional. And those who slept on the marble floors of Madison laid the groundwork for what would become Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement, challenging austerity amidst the worst economic crisis since the depression.
It’s in this atmosphere of heightened class conflict that the union representing New York City drivers, attendants and mechanics – who are responsible for transporting over 150,000 students in the country’s largest school district – called a strike. New York’s billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Schools Chancellor Denise Walcott are looking to nix employee protections that enable workers to keep their jobs when bus routes pass from one contractor to another.
This article was submitted to us by a teacher friend. She writes, “The article illustrates in a very simple way what needs to be done to have and be a union that is truly on the side of the working class. Two friends of mine that are teachers, and in the past had made a conscious decision to not be organizers, were pretty inspired by this article. I think the simpleness of the article is a big plus for people that don’t have politics in their heads 24/7.”
Here in Oakland, the lessons of the Chicago teachers are especially useful for us as OEA gears up for contract negotiations. So if you’re interested in what Norine Gutekanst has to say here you might want to check out our Oct. 5 post with a video of Norine going in depth into the lessons of the strike.
Editors Note: This article was taken from zcommunications.org who reposted it from Labor Notes (we were unable to find the original link, apologies). Thanks to both parties, and our friend, for spreading the words and work of CTU.
How Chicago Teachers Got Organized to Strike
By Norine Gutekanst, CTU Organizing Director
The seven-day Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike in September didn’t just beat back a mayor bent on imposing some very bad “education reforms.” The union also developed a deep new layer of member leaders and won broad public support. One poll showed 66 percent of parents sided with us.
Our win was possible because of several years of patient organizing, focused on getting members to step up.
The work began with the election of a new leadership team from a reform caucus in June 2010. Many in the caucus had waged battles going back to 2001 against the school closings that were targeting Black and Latino neighborhoods.
We knew we had to build up the union to be ready to strike, if necessary, to defend our contract and our students. But the vast majority of our members had not experienced any of the nine strikes from 1967 through 1987. Leaders were committed to building a member-driven union to battle alongside parents and students and make our contract campaign one front in a bigger fight to save public education.