News for the East Bay's diverse, working-class majority.
Brought to you by the Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay chapter.
May 22, 2019
Shoulder to shoulder, socialists, teachers, parents, and students organize and fight together to defend public education, build strong unions, and transform our economy to work for the many, not just the wealthy few.
By Lisa Gilman
The teacher strike wave has arrived in California. In the 2018-19 school year, Democratic socialists have walked picket lines with striking teachers in LA, Oakland, Sacramento, and Union City. And today East Bay DSA is proud to join teachers all over the state in Sacramento to demand the full funding of our public schools system and meaningful reforms to California’s broken charter law.
With our per-pupil funding for K-12 education ranked 43rd in the nation and the unchecked growth of charter schools causing further disinvestment in our public system, schools across the state are being forced to do more with less. Teachers and students in California have endured year after year of cuts to essential services, class sizes that are unfit for teaching and learning, and teacher pay that makes attracting and retaining educators extremely difficult.
To make matters worse, many school districts grossly mismanage the little funding that is available — and educators are right to pick fights with their local administrators and elected officials who create these unacceptable conditions.
No matter where you go in California, or who sits on the local school board, every school feels the impact of an appalling lack of investment in education. California is the wealthiest state in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and there is no excuse for underfunding public education.
Democratic Socialists believe that our state can afford to provide tuition-free, high-quality, truly public education from pre-K to college to every Californian. But because wealthy elites control our economy and our government, it’s going to take a mass movement of teachers, students, and ordinary working people to win the education system we all deserve.
The teacher strike wave is a beacon of hope in a grim landscape of budget cuts, privatization, and unconscionable inequities in our education system. But it’s more than that — together, we are rebuilding the sense that we deserve beautiful, fully funded public goods and services and that no one should wring profits from the things we all need to live healthy, flourishing lives. The power and militant energy we build defending public education can be used to win Medicare for All, beautiful social housing, and clean water and air.
Teachers have tremendous leverage in society. All workers do. When we get fed up, organize with our coworkers and stop working, our schools, factories, and offices stop working too, and we can force major concessions from our bosses—whether they are CEOs or a state officials. On the strike line, workers discover their power, and they forge unbreakable bonds of solidarity with one another. Strikes and other mass labor actions can win more than just better wages and working conditions for specific workers— it’s thanks to workers’ organizing that we have the weekend and the 8-hour day.
The percentage of unionized workers has been steadily declining since its peak in the 1930s, when 30% of American workers had unions and strikes were common. Today, just about 10% of workers have unions, and up until the West Virginia teachers took matters into their own hands, the number of workers on strike — workers who were able to know the power of the strike — was depressingly low. In 2017 just 27,000 workers went on strike; in 2018 that number increased almost seventeen-fold to 485,000. And this growing wave shows no signs of slowing down.
This strike wave is about more than just teacher pay — it’s about the unacceptable lack of investment in public services, the stranglehold corporations have over public life and politics, and the inexcusable living and working conditions that this forces on millions of Americans.
Between the teacher strike wave, surprising victories for democratic socialist politicians at the ballot box, and the rise in popularity of demands like a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and tuition-free college and university, we can say for certain that our movement is growing.
Working people all over the country, in unionized and nonunionized workplaces, are fed up and looking for a way to change their circumstances. Whether on the picket line, at the ballot box, or in the streets, working people are standing up and fight back. Thank you teachers, for showing us how it’s done.