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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

After Janus, more strikes?

West Virginia teachers walked out for nine days in a wildcat strike.

The statewide teacher strike in West Virginia was just the beginning, predicts Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times.

Oklahoma teachers, who earn even less than West Virginia teachers, could be the next to walk out.

The U.S. Supreme Court “is expected to rule that requiring government employees to pay union fees violates their First Amendment rights,” notes Greenhouse, referring to the Janus case. If public-sector unions lose members, money and clout, “then teachers and other public servants might get so fed up that, as in West Virginia, they go on strike en masse.”

It’s not clear there will be more teachers’ strikes in the post-Janus world, writes Madeline Will in Education Week.

West Virginia and Oklahoma are two of 28 right-to-work states, she writes. Teachers aren’t required to pay “agency” or “fair-share” fees to teachers’ unions, the issue in Janus.

“A loss of collective bargaining would lead to more activism and political action, not less,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told the Washington Post. “Collective bargaining exists as [a] way for workers and employers to peacefully solve labor relations.” . . . But Jake Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, called that line of argument “pretty far-fetched.” “In right-to-work states and non-right-to-work states, strikes are incredibly rare,” said Rosenfeld, who studies public-sector labor unions. Large strikes, like the one in West Virginia, are even rarer, he added.

Mark Janus, a child-support specialist for the state of Illinois, argues that public unions use agency fees to fund “causes and views” that he doesn’t support, not just to fund collective bargaining.

In recent years, public-sector union leaders have talked of  “bargaining for the common good,” writes Larry Sand, a retired teacher who heads the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

In a  2016 American Prospect story, Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, called collective bargaining “an important tool available to fight for equity and justice” that should go beyond salaries and work rules.

That’s what Janus was complaining about, writes Sand.

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