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.