Barbara Madeloni

New York City Teachers Work Outdoors after a Co-Worker Tests Positive

UPDATE, September 18: Amid continued protests, yesterday Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the start of in-person school in New York City will be further delayed for most students. Pre-K and special ed schools will still open September 21, but elementary school reopening has been pushed back to September 29, and middle and high school to October 1. —Editors

Ready to Work, But Not Indoors: Educators Bring Lawn Chairs

Educators in Andover, Massachusetts, set up lawn chairs, folding tables, and laptops in the shade of trees and next to school tennis courts and got to work on their first day of professional development August 31.

The superintendent and school committee had announced a virtual professional development day—but insisted that educators be in the school building for the sessions. Yes, that meant that educators were to enter buildings with other adults in order to sit in empty classrooms to participate in virtual training.

Teachers wearing masks hold signs that say Make Our Schools Safe and Not Until It's Safe.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, teachers and school employees are being handed reopening plans that require them to be in their classrooms at the bell—and they are resisting.

In a matter of days in mid-March, educators were expected to move classes online, work from home, and manage their own fear and uncertainty—all while worried for students whom they suddenly couldn’t see, talk to, or reassure.

Even veteran organizers were at a loss for what steps to take, except to focus on the immediate problems. How do we move classes online? Will students who depend on school for meals have enough to eat? What about the students with no internet?

VIDEO: Organizing in the Face of the Coronavirus

In the light of this pandemic, it is imperative that we protect workers immediately, prevent the exploitation of this crisis by management, and consider how to use this moment to advance demands that last far beyond the coronavirus.

How do we do this? What is happening and what can we learn from each other?

Almost 900 people joined a Labor Notes webinar to hear from educators, an Amazon worker, and a worker center organizer about their successes organizing in the face of the coronavirus.

Brookline paraeducators with signs lining hallway of school.

Teachers around the country have been schooling us all with their strike wave. But schools depend on more than just classroom teachers. Recently paraeducators, a vital—and criminally underpaid—part of the public school workforce, are starting to rise up too.

Paraeducators assist individual students with a range of learning issues, including physical disabilities, problems focusing, and difficulties managing emotions. They aid classroom teachers and are often called on to provide support in managing the day-to-day of school life for these students.

Strikes Are Hard Work

Dedham educators in red, on a picket line, with red and white signs.

They stood on a picket line at the entrance to the school parking lot: seven educators out on strike for the first time.

Public sector strikes are illegal in Massachusetts. But the night before, after two years of fruitless negotiations, the 300 members of the Dedham Education Association had voted overwhelming to walk out.

Now educators lined the main street from the high school to the middle school, celebrating each passing car that honked support.

“I’m nervous,” said one. “I am a new teacher, two years in the district.”

Crowd of LIttle Rock educators and supporters in support of LREA.

The site of struggle to defend unions and public education has moved quickly from Chicago to Little Rock.

The 1,800-member Little Rock Education Association began preparing for a potential strike after the Arkansas State Board of Education ended recognition of the union. Their demands: return collective bargaining rights to LREA, give full local control of the school district back to the people of Little Rock, and provide education support professionals with raises that were being negotiated at the time that the union was decertified.

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