Working In These Times

Wednesday, Mar 7, 2018, 1:57 pm  ·  By Jane McAlevey

The West Virginia Strike Points a Path Forward for the Labor Movement

West Virginia educators just waged a wildcat strike across the state—and won. (West Virginia Education Association / Facebook)  

​Yesterday, West Virginia’s educators produced an incredible lesson plan on power. The timing and outcome of their struggle is epic. Before and during their strike—an unprecedented statewide walkout that shuttered doors to every school in the state’s 55 counties—the national media was writing the obituary of public-service unions, a narrative driven by the oral arguments in the Supreme Court case Janus vs AFSCME. As Trump’s solicitor general bloviated bad things about government workers’ unions, it was day three in West Virginia’s unauthorized, illegal strike in a state that already has the trappings of the laws that the right wing hopes to nationalize in the Janus case (no worker has to pay dues, fair share or agency fees to his or her union).


Tuesday, Mar 6, 2018, 6:49 pm  ·  By Miles Kampf-Lassin

The Lesson From West Virginia Teachers? If You Want to Win, Go on Strike.

After the nine-day strike, West Virginia teachers won a 5 percent pay increase. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  

For many years now, observers have been ringing the death knell for the U.S. labor movement. West Virginia teachers haven’t just pumped life back into that movement—they’ve reaffirmed the fundamental principle that the key to building power and winning is for workers to withhold their labor.

On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill passed by the state legislature that will provide a 5 percent raise for teachers and school personnel. The deal reportedly also includes a 5 percent raise for all state employees, though that will have to be finalized through an upcoming budget bill. The state has also agreed to set up a task force to address the increasing costs in teachers’ healthcare plans—a key issue for striking teachers. 


Tuesday, Mar 6, 2018, 4:02 pm  ·  By Rachel Johnson

Illinois Grad Students Are on Strike to Make the University Accessible for the Working Class

Graduate students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been on strike since February 26. (GEO / Facebook)  

On February 26, four days after teachers in all 55 West Virginia counties walked out on strike, graduate workers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) followed suit. Filling the leafy quad of Illinois’ flagship state university, hundreds of graduate workers and supporters gathered to protest a plan that the school’s Graduate Employees Union (GEO) argues will turn the university into a “for-profit business, one that leaves poor and working class students out of its storied halls.” As of Tuesday, UIUC grad students remain on strike. 


Monday, Mar 5, 2018, 4:25 pm  ·  By Rebecca Burns

YMCA Childcare Workers Just Went On Strike. Here’s Why.

(SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana/Facebook)  

When Vivian Clark got a job with a Chicago-area Head Start program 15 years ago, it seemed like the “stepping stone” her family had been waiting for. Her son, then aged 9, had already gone through the federally funded preschool program when Clark was offered a job as a part-time administrative assistant for a Head Start program administered by the YMCA. In addition to providing early education and social services for low-income children, many Head Start agencies have expanded their focus into providing education and job opportunities for parents, often as employees of the program.


Friday, Mar 2, 2018, 4:52 pm  ·  By Kate Aronoff

West Virginia Teachers Are Now Out on a Wildcat Strike. The Labor Movement Should Follow Their Lead.

West Virginia teachers are now on the seventh day of a statewide strike. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  

In a bright spot among an otherwise bleak landscape for labor, over 15,000 teachers and school support employees in all 55 West Virginia counties have been out on strike for seven days, as they and supporters from around the state continue to flood the capitol in Charleston, W.V., demanding higher pay and affordable healthcare.

Bucking a deal struck between the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) and the state government, school workers have defied both union leadership and state law, which affords them no right to strike and does not recognize their right to collectively bargain. These restrictions haven’t stopped West Virginia educators from leading what may be one of the most important labor actions in years.


Thursday, Mar 1, 2018, 5:07 pm  ·  By Bryce Covert

Amid a Fast-Food Industry Plagued By Sexual Harassment, This Mother and Daughter Said “No More”

Teresa Acevedo speaking at a press conference, alongside her mother, Balbina Ortiz. (Arise Chicago)  

In the summer of 2017, Teresa Acevedo’s male coworker at a Lincolnwood, Ill., location of the fast-food chain Villa Italian Kitchen was promoted to assistant manager, making him her supervisor. But once he gained that power, according to Acevedo, he started to flex it in inappropriate ways. “When he became manager was when he started to abuse his power,” she says.


Thursday, Mar 1, 2018, 4:55 pm  ·  By Michelle Chen

These Teachers Refuse to Be Weaponized

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The call to “arm the teachers”’ started as another stink bomb President Donald Trump lobbed into the crowd at a conservative rally. But somehow, the concept cycled through the 24-hour news loop and, within a few hours, became a ubiquitous meme. Now, the morally repugnant idea of gun-toting teachers in America’s schools has taken center stage in the nation’s macabre debate on gun safety.


Thursday, Mar 1, 2018, 1:52 pm  ·  By Hunter Blair, Economic Policy Institute

The Trump Admin’s Infrastructure Plan Doubles Down on a System That Doesn’t Work

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (L) and US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (C) watch US President Donald Trump speaks wave during his visit to the US Department of Transportation June 9, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)  

The Trump administration recently released its long-awaited infrastructure plan. Despite claims by administration officials that the plan will provide a $1.7 trillion investment in infrastructure, in fact just $200 billion of federal funds is earmarked over the next 10 years for roads, bridges, airports and other vital infrastructure projects. And this figure will barely make up for the cuts to infrastructure investment that are embedded in the administration’s 2019 budget.


Tuesday, Feb 27, 2018, 10:40 am  ·  By Kate Aronoff

3 Democratic Campaigns Now Have Staff Unions. Why Not More?

Last week, campaigners for Randy Bryce successfully negotiated a union contract. (Randy Bryce/Facebook)  

All signs point to a messy battle in the 2020 Democratic primaries, pitting establishment types against democratic socialists. Thanks to an effort spearheaded largely by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaigners, the staffers for a few 2018 Congressional candidates could be pioneering a new litmus test for determining candidates’ progressive credentials: Do they recognize their employees’ union?


Monday, Feb 26, 2018, 12:27 pm  ·  By Manuel Perez Rocha

5 Reasons Mexican Workers Would Cheer the Demise of NAFTA

Mexican farmers take part 31 January, 2008 in Mexico City in a march of hundreds of corn producers protesting against the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)  

This article was produced in partnership with Foreign Policy In Focus.

Mexicans have plenty not to like about Donald Trump: his racism, his wall, his tirades against immigrants. But if there's a disruption provoked by Trump we should actually embrace, it's the renegotiation of NAFTA—or even the trade pact's possible end.