Teachers unions are progressively utilizing strikes as a bargaining technique 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 companies in the state. The strike is the 2nd 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 instructors union in Oakland, Calif., meanwhile, revealed 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 triggered mass shutdowns. Both unions eventually returned to the table in the middle of days-long strikes, receiving concessions on pay raises, as well as restricting class sizes. Teachers at two Chicago charter schools have also held strikes to win pay raises.
Some labor watchdogs state the strikes show a brand-new truth 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 charges to labor unions are unconstitutional. Patrick Semmens, spokesperson for the National Right to Work Structure, which argued the Janus case prior to the high court, sees a link in between extreme actions, such as strikes, and the voluntary membership system.
“There’s no concern that prior to Janus teacher union officials took much of the rank-and-file for granted, and now without charges payments being necessary union authorities are scrambling to attempt to justify the dues their members are paying,” Semmens told the Washington Totally Free Beacon. “Part of that action seems to be a ramping up of their hate-the-boss rhetoric coupled with strikes that hold taxpayers and trainees hostage to union manager needs.”
Labor companies argued that compulsory charges and charges were required to keep labor peace in the public sector. Justice Elena Kagan echoed that argument in her dissent, stating that permitting workers to choose out would hurt union financial resources and lead to disruptions. Forcing employees to contribute to labor organizations was necessary to “facilitate serene and stable labor relations.”
“Public employee unions will lose a safe and secure source of financial support,” she said of the bulk decision. “Across the country, the relationships of public employees and companies will modify in both foreseeable and completely unanticipated ways.”
Michael Lotito, a management-side attorney at Littler Mendelson and co-chairman of Workplace Policy Institute, stated the reliance on strikes, rather than continuing to deal for concessions, shows a more hard-headed method to labor relations. A mass walk-out is the simplest way for unions to gain presence amongst their members and the basic public. When state and city governments reward a striking union to appease frustrated parents, neighboring labor companies take note—as do their own members, who see the efficiency of belonging to a labor group. Unions are especially efficient, Lotito stated, at using “the message [that] it’s all about the kids,” rather than pay raises and funding increases even as school districts face “scant resources, bad educational results, and pension liabilities.”
“I believe Janus does have something to do with it,” Lotito stated. “The union has to be noticeable and viewed as supplying value to their members who they can not take for granted.”
Not every labor guard dog is persuaded that Janus has played an essential role in the spread of strikes. Peter List, a former union organizer who now works as a labor consultant, said that public sector unions, particularly in education, have been growing more radical over the years. Chicago instructors used a strike to win essential concessions from Democratic mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012. He stated new innovation has actually made labor discontent unavoidable, as organizers harness social media and their own sites to wage “constant projects.” The environment provides itself to bolder action than that of earlier generations meeting at union halls or break spaces to produce interest in walkouts.
“Through union newsletters, emails and social media, unions can conduct a ‘constant campaign’ with their members. As such, there has been a ‘radicalization’ of sorts coming given that prior to Janus,” List said in an email.
Not every state is ripe for the kind of mass discontent triggered by strikes. New York tried to quell massive employee uprisings in the latter half of the 20 th century by taking objective at union pocketbooks. State law avoids unions from receiving automated dues deductions throughout a strike, which leaves unions more committed to the bargaining table, according to Ken Girardin, a labor policy specialist at the pro-free market Empire Center. He stated that policy—as well as the state’s currently union-friendly contracts—has helped to foster labor peace in the public sector.
“Under New York Law unions can lose their automatic charges reduction advantage if they go on strike,” he stated. “A strike could be financially damaging to the union. In the past we’ve seen unions where more than half of members stopped paying if it’s not being taken immediately.”