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Red State Rebels: Grappling with Power and Difference in the Education Labor Movement

Sat, November 2, 8:30 to 10:00am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: 3, Calvert


In the spring of 2018, education workers and local union activists in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona pushed their trade unions, school boards, and school administrations to shut schools until their demands for better pay, healthcare, and school funding were met. After experiencing year after year of budget cuts, often alongside increasingly intense accountability and surveillance measures, education workers said, enough. This paper draws from interviews with 28 teacher organizers in the four initial strike wave states that began the reverberations of teacher labor uprisings across the U.S. Complicating neat portrayals of a unified, homogenous movement, the paper aims to understand a few key differences that animated, and continue to animate the education labor movement. The paper ultimately suggests that in order to strengthen the movement, we must interrogate and address the deeply embedded hierarchies of power that have always existed, in some form, within the education system.