Samantha Winslow

What will happen to public sector unions after the Supreme Court rules on the Janus v. AFSCME case this spring? Indiana teachers are already there. Slammed by a “right to work” law in 1996 and a new barrage of attacks in 2011, the teachers experienced what many unions are afraid of—a big drop in membership.

But the Indiana State Teachers Association didn’t roll over and give up after that. The union developed a tracking system called “Go Green” to help local leaders get membership back up.

Teachers Organize National Black Lives Matter Week of Action

What started last year with teachers in Seattle and Philadelphia has picked up steam.

Teachers in Chicago, Newark, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, and Los Angeles joined this year’s Black Lives Matter at Schools week of action, often organized by a rank-and-file caucus in the local union.

They shared a list of demands:

If there’s one lesson labor can draw from the events of 2017, it’s this—to survive and grow in the face of a nationally coordinated employer offensive, we’ll have to use the attacks against us as organizing opportunities.

The whole public sector will likely become “right to work” next year, barring another miracle at the Supreme Court.

Once the conservative majority rules in Janus v. AFSCME, likely before June, life will change for unions in the 23 states that till now have rejected right-to-work laws. Public sector unions in those states will no longer be able to collect “agency fees” from workers whom they represent but who choose not to join their locals.

Teachers and their unions turned out for May Day this year in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Oakland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Seattle. They held teach-ins at schools and pickets outside, and joined citywide demonstrations in solidarity with immigrant communities.

It started when a few nurses at Temple University Hospital told stewards that they weren’t being paid for their experience.

One of the first to speak up was Jessy Palathinkal, who had become a nurse in India in 1990. She got her U.S. nursing license when she moved here in 1995. But when she started working at Temple, her placement on the pay scale was as though those five years of nursing never happened.

She asked why. Human Resources told her the hospital didn’t count years of experience in foreign countries.

When President Donald Trump nominated billionaire Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, teachers in her home state of Michigan were outraged—again.

In her confirmation hearing, DeVos’s responses to senators’ questions may have made her look uninformed and unprepared. She said schools need guns to protect students from grizzly bears; she didn’t know federal disability laws apply to schools; she couldn’t explain basic education policy; she refused to answer whether charter schools and traditional public schools should be judged on the same accountability measures.

Pages