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“At most places & most times, the norm is working-class resignation, rather than resistance”.

So what explains the 2018 strike wave in red states?

130,000 teachers & support staff went on strike in West Virginia, Oklahoma, & Arizona.
Collective resistance is really hard.

- HUGE task of organising mass action
- repressive labor laws
- austerity; Rep AND Dem leaders say there’s no 💰
- threats of pay ✂️
- atomised workers, weak unions, no links between counties
- 👩‍🏫s’ political divisions
- despondency.
Fed up and frustrated, West Virginia educators strategised & networked - in meetings and online (via the United Facebook page).

They voted to walk out. And do they did. And this embodies experience of marching out together changed their perceptions
Hugely importantly, organisers recognised that #racism would undermine their unity & collective strength, so made concerted efforts to ensure everyone felt valued & welcomed

Eg by speaking in Spanish at rallies, & printing placards in both languages
Inclusive unions = stronger unions!

(I have a paper on exactly this. If workers of diverse backgrounds feel listened to, respected, appreciated, they are more likely to invest in the shared project).
Caveat: it’s obviously *not* that these walkouts ended racism; they just strategically minimised it to secure a collective win on pay.
“They’re doing it, why can’t we?”

By seeing peers securing wins, others become emboldened!

So the catalyst here is *not* economic or legal, nor a shift in internalised ideologies about what’s right,

But #hope, through observing others people’s successful activism.
If workers are despondent & doubt their collective efficacy, they may just pursue individual solutions to structural problems.

Eg 1/5 teachers have a second job.

But, through collective action, many teachers gained a new sense of solidarity: that they’re in this together.
Right wing politicians & media tries to undermine public support for the walkout by saying they were harming children, depriving them of learning.

So educators carefully framed their struggle as defending essential public services.

And many school students rallied in support
A week into the Oklahoma strikes, 72% of the public expressed support.

Parents (especially black and brown working class families) strongly supported their resistance to austerity.
Construction workers showed solidarity by refusing to cross the picket line, many churches became makeshift daycare centres, local Dems voiced support, unions in San Francisco sent pizzas, others sent photos in solidarity.
“Prior to the push for a strike, it was very tough to organise. We’d be happy if ten people would show up for a meeting”

- relented Allen, a regional organiser.
The walkouts changed how educators perceived themselves.

They recognised their accomplishment & collective efficacy : “we made history”.

This raised their #expectations of what is possible
West Virginia’s win emboldened teachers in Oklahoma!

So they too walked out!

But failed to win concessions. And thus became dispirited.
So this is a 🔑 point:

if workers are not already unified, confident, & righteous, then #setbacks can undermine their hope, & proclivity to invest.

(I make this same point in my paper, “politicising inequality”).
So why were walkouts successful in West Virginia & Arizona, but unsuccessful in Oklahoma?
Sanders’ 2016 campaign in WV fired up 🌹, to focus on organising the base, rather than advocacating in their behalf

WV has a stronger history of labour struggles: more experienced organisers

So organising in O was weaker, more top-down, more conciliatory

- argues @_ericblanc
Evans tangent: THIS IS PRECISELY WHAT HAPPENED IN 1848 & THE ARAB SPRING!

Democrats saw the overthrow of the regime in France (1848) & Tunisia (2011). They hoped they could achieve similar wins. But lacked their organisational strength, & got screwed over
cambridge.org/core/journals/…
So how do you build organisational strength?

Is it path dependent: states without traditions of leftist organising have inevitably weak unions?

Or can a militant minority 🌹 help strengthen bottom up organising?
So Arizona lacked WV’s history of labor activism,

But did have a militant minority, some of whom had been inspired by Sanders’ massive rallies in 2016.
Again, huge obstacles
Massive smear campaigns, disinformation, & threats from the Koch-backed Right
So the argument here is that the resurgence of socialist politics enabled a symbiotic relationship with unions:

Both in terms of goals and strategy;

Demanding more, deep organising, emboldening and engaging the grassroots (not top-down advocacy on their behalf).
And that’s a really inspirational tale:

“Red state revolt” implies that even in states with repressive labor laws, huge internal divisions, and little history of activism

It is possible to organise workers, and through successful activism, they gain solidarity & inspire others.
But if you’re convinced by that line, and now think it’s possible to go help workers organise, then please read this ultra depressing book....

Different context: much more precarious workers, weaker ties, far easier to replace & break strikes, attrition...

Ht @snaidunl
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