On January 25, the Washington Post published a piece of mine on the recently-concluded Los Angeles teachers’ strike. While it was certainly a decisive victory for the members of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the LA teachers’ union, it also has broader implications for the US labor movement more broadly—particularly in light of last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which made it illegal for public sector unions to require workers who benefit from contracts negotiated on their behalf to contribute to the costs of negotiating and enforcing those contracts.
In the piece, I argue that the UTLA strike challenges two pieces of conventional wisdom about unions today. First, contrary to predictions that Janus would deal a crushing blow to labor, the strike shows how unions can survive, and even thrive, in the post-Janus landscape. The key involves methodical organizing based in the workplace that then radiates outwards to the community. That organizing needs to be centered around a compelling alternative vision of the future that counters the employer narrative. And it needs to prepare workers for the fight that will be necessary to realize that vision.
That kind of organizing challenges a second piece of conventional wisdom, namely that strikes don’t work anymore. Instead, some argue that unions need to adopt a more collaborative approach towards management that makes a “value proposition” about their worth to the enterprise. UTLA showed that with proper organization, strikes and a more confrontational approach can win big.
You can read the piece here: Los Angeles teachers just proved that the common wisdom about unions is wrong