Arizona Lawmakers Want to Make It Harder for Teachers to Strike

An inspiring wave of teacher strikes swept the nation in 2018, including in states where teachers are not technically allowed to engage in labor actions. It looks like #RedForEd is continuing into 2019, with Los Angeles teachers back on the job after hammering out a deal and Denver teachers contemplating a strike of their own.

But in Arizona, the backlash has arrived — and it could be a warning sign for other organizing teachers in the U.S.

As public employees, teachers face certain restrictions in some states designed to make it harder to strike. And that has triggered much semantic debate about what constitutes a strike.

Is it still a strike if it’s a walkout? What about if the protest action targets lawmakers, not their employers and supervisors? In West Virginia, a misleadingly-termed “right to work” state, such actions are unlawful — but that didn’t stop a teacher uprising in early 2018.

Arizona lawmakers are clearly unhappy about the labor actions that occurred in their own state, and they’ve introduced legislation that’s hard to view as anything but punitive. One law would make it illegal to close a school except in very specific circumstances, like severe weather — and a labor action is not among those circumstances.

This proposal would also apply to charter schools, which have also become targets of strikes and walkouts as teachers get fed up about education inequality; charter school teachers in both Chicago and Los Angeles have hit the picket line recently.

Another bill is basically a gag order for teachers that forbids them from engaging in discussions about politics — like, say, campaigns for better play, improvements to school facilities and more staffing. That’s clearly and explicitly designed to make it okay to fire teachers for engaging in labor organizing.

But that’s not the end of this real stinker of a bill. The ethics code would ban teachers from talking with students about legislation, judicial action and other political events if they “endorsed” them. Imagine trying to teach a civics class where students ask your opinion about an issue and you can’t respond — or having students approach you to ask for help with a civic engagement project and having to say no.

Furthermore, teachers wouldn’t be allowed to call out racism or take on “controversial issues.” Basically, the legislature wants to tell Arizona teachers what and how to teach, in a move that may spark memories of the state’s attempt at banning ethnic studies. The law would also mandate more military recruiter access to students and their data, upholding a controversial practice.

Oklahoma has also introduced legislation that would ban strikes and punish teachers for participating in labor organizing. It’s clear that conservative lawmakers are furious and ready to start punching down at teachers, often in states where their pay is well below median for their profession.

Teachers across the U.S. are struggling to make ends meet and serve their students, and state legislative moves like this suggest that lawmakers don’t value education or the professionals who make schools function. Taking away the legal right to organize makes it extremely challenging for teachers to be heard when they advocate on pay, working conditions, safety and other issues.

Some feel these laws are justified, arguing that public employees should not have a right to organize against the state, or that strikes are so disruptive that they should be suppressed. It’s certainly challenging for parents when school is closed, and they need to scramble to make alternate arrangements — but the long-term costs of tolerating untenable working conditions are simply too high.

If lawmakers don’t want teachers to strike, maybe they should pay them what they’re worth.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

37 comments

Paula A
Paula A12 days ago

Thank you

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Chad Anderson
Chad A15 days ago

Thank you.

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Daniel N
Daniel N18 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R19 days ago

thank you

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Peggy B
Peggy B20 days ago

TYFS

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hELEN h
hELEN h20 days ago

tyfs

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Danuta W
Danuta W20 days ago

thank you for posting

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Anne Moran
Anne M21 days ago

To put a ''gag order on teachers, stopping them from talking politics'' is a bit much.. - Sounds like communist country, where you're not allowed to speak your mind,, or else !! - What happened to freedom of speech ?? - What's happening to the U.S. ?? - Going downhill if you ask me... - Teachers have always been so respected,, even when I went to school in the 60s and early 70s... - Now they are treated like sht... - Screw these Arizona lawmakers, and screw their politics/laws - Time for a gov shuffle...

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Debbi W
Debbi W21 days ago

Every single teacher in Arizona should go on strike until the talk of those ridiculous, tyrannical laws are forgotten. It will take all of the teachers banding together, but they would have the power to make major changes. If they don't, they should move out of Arizona and let those god awful republicans manage the schools with no teachers. The Arizona republican have become too high handed and need to be taken down.

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Janet B
Janet B21 days ago

Thanks

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