by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Teachers unions are increasingly using strikes as a bargaining tactic in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that allows public sector dissidents to opt out of paying union dues.
West Virginia is in the midst of a statewide teacher walk-out to protest legislation that would allow for more charter schools and other non-union organizations in the state. The strike is the second from the West Virginia Education Association in as many years after it parlayed a statewide walkout from Feb. 22 to March 7 in 2018 to receive 5 percent pay raises. The teachers union in Oakland, Calif., meanwhile, announced that it would begin its own strike on Thursday after walking away from the bargaining table with the school district over pay raises.
The pair of strikes comes shortly after teachers in Denver and Los Angeles caused mass shutdowns. Both unions eventually returned to the table amid days-long strikes, receiving concessions on pay raises, as well as limiting class sizes. Teachers at two Chicago charter schools have also held strikes to win pay raises.
Some labor watchdogs say the strikes reflect a new reality for organized labor following the Supreme Court’s Janus decision in June. The landmark 5-4 ruling declared that policies that force government workers to pay union dues or fees to labor unions are unconstitutional. Patrick Semmens, spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation, which argued the Janus case before the high court, sees a link between drastic steps, such as strikes, and the voluntary membership system.