Tag Archives: Oklahoma

Strikes Against Charters, Amateurism, Disinvestment and DeVos/Trump Agenda

New Orleans       Reporters and commentators don’t know what to make of the anger and activism of teachers who are flipping the red-state script and taking job actions, with and without their unions, to directly target governors and legislators in Oklahoma, North Carolina, West Virginia, and likely Arizona.

West Virginia teachers were out nine days until they won a full commitment from the governor and legislative leadership to fully fund increases for both teachers and state employees.  Oklahoma teachers saw their governor and legislature attempt to preempt their strike with a $6000 raise, but their demands were for $10,000 over several years, raises for school support workers, and huge investments in public schools that have been starved for funding for years.  North Carolina teachers took sick days to go to their legislators with their demands.  Arizona teachers are clearly organizing to be apart of this Teacher Spring offensive.

What’s in the water at the drinking fountains in public school hallways now?

Some of the credit must be given to Trump and the long rolling scandal of his misogyny.  More than 75% of the teaching force is composed of women, and this is a moment for women everywhere to step up and step out.  Teachers are professionals.  They are responsible for discipline and decorum in the classroom and often in the community as well.  Talk to any of them and you will find that regardless of political affiliation, they are offended by the tenor and tone of the national government.

They understand they work for the government, and they see that they have been abandoned by the government and the calls for shrinking public services and closing of the public purse.  They don’t have to go to Washington to join and lead the resistance, they can see the disinvestment in public education right at home and in the rhetoric of their own state legislators and their knee-jerk adherence to the charter and privatization of education over recent years and in the ideological ignorance of Betty DeVos, Trump’s Education Secretary.  The West Virginia spark has started a prairie fire.

Congress in the new budget recently left DeVos stranded like a voice in her own wilderness.  She wanted to cut the budget by $9 billion.   They ignored her and added $2.5 billion.  She wanted to eviscerate the civil rights offices for schools, and they made such action dependent on Congressional action.  They slammed the door on her hands and did so without apology.

Teachers in Oklahoma may not win.  No strikes are guaranteed victory, but they do guarantee that everyone will feel the pain and that lines will be drawn.  Their demand for investment in more staffing and improved physical plants after years of disinvestment are going to stop the bleeding there.  They had won an $18 million down payment on improvements before they stopped work.  They will win more, and their action will prevent legislators from continuing to defund public schools in favor of choice, vouchers, and charters.

Always remember that teachers in statewide actions like these are in every legislators’ districts.  Public support flows from teachers to children to their parents and legislators are being forced to remember that now as teachers flood into their offices in state capital after state capital.

Strike to strike, who can gauge the results, but taken together state after state will start getting this message, so whatever happens this spring, the results will likely rebound to the good for public education and teachers for years to come.

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Coordinated Attack on Public Workers and Unions in Texas and Oklahoma

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHouston           The headlines on the attack on workers and their unions has recently been written in the Midwest.  An attempt to follow-up in Wisconsin on the stripping of union protections for public workers now finds the legislature there pile driving a so-called right-to-work bill that would strip unions of vital resources for representation requirements and services.  Having spent hours in the Houston Local 100 office poring over a bill introduced in this session of the Texas legislature that could, if passed, and if passed in the current form, attack public workers at all levels state, counties, cities, and schools by eliminating any authority for payroll dues deductions for workers to their unions, it is important to realize that some of the highly publicized fights are just the tip of the iceberg as these concerted union attacks continue below the water line to eviscerate unions in areas of the country where workers are most beleaguered.

The New York Times reported a story recently about the coordinated efforts of many Republican controlled state legislatures to use a “preemption” strategy at the behest of industry and particularly the Koch Brothers’ funded ALEC conservative bill-writing factory to take away governing discretion at the local level that Republican business donors were finding obnoxious.  The headline cases were the Denton, Texas city council outlawing fracking there down to whether or not the Fort Worth Mayor and Council could regulate the environmental damage from plastic bags.  The story cited the longstanding preemption efforts in many states to eliminate the ability of cities to set their own minimum wage standards that began in the 1990’s with the Local 100 and ACORN’s ballot measure in Houston to raise the minimum wage as well as in New Orleans and Denver.  Of course New Mexico, where cities have continued to retain that right, is a heavily targeted area for business now.

Perhaps we should not have been surprised in this dark and polarized climate to find bills with identical numbers introduced in both Texas and Oklahoma that would eliminate all abilities for worker requests for payroll dues deductions to be honored by public employers.  The Oklahoma bill is only different from Texas in the fact that it is plainer spoken and just waves the mighty wand of the state to make all deductions disappear.  In Texas, the language meanders around trickier pathways because there is more to unravel since some cities, particularly Houston, have opened the door to more direct negotiations with the HOPE coalition of city unions connected to SEIU and AFSCME, and they wanted to tiptoe a bit more around police and fire unions that bankrolled some of their buddies.  Nonetheless, talking to our Austin-based attorney, Doug Young, every time we thought we might have found some wiggle room, he pointedly assured us it was legally locked down tighter than a bank vault.

Of course if something as draconian as these bills passes and becomes law, there are recourses in court based on the first amendment and our freedoms of association and the equal protection measures that frown on discrimination of our organizations, but that means years in court and uncertain results.  One outcome will be certain, if such overreaching legislation is approved, there will be even weaker unions in states that are already notorious for the weakness of unions.

I am reminded of two things.  One is the way that business and industry used a Lake Charles oil refinery strike to raise the temperature enough to win right-to-work legislation in Louisiana in 1976, and now the fact that the same effort is underway in the oil patch states while oil refinery workers are on a very well run and smart strike around safety conditions throughout Texas, Louisiana, and other states.  The other thing that hits hard is my own advocacy of wider worker organization using direct dues collection outside of employer permissions to build strong and sustainable organizations like our 35,000 member union of hawkers in Bengaluru and Chennai in India.

Nonetheless it is one thing to have alternative organizing and dues collection methodology.  It is quite another to be forced in that direction with no alternatives, and that seems to potentially be our future in the current anti-union assaults in the southwest, and likely throughout the southern states.

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Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” Live at the WGA Writers Strike (some explicit content)

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