Teachers continue to organize and struggle. In the United States in the past two months we have seen headlines for teachers striking from Los Angles and Denver to West Virginia and Virginia. Teachers in West Virginia seem to have shaken something loose with their state wide strike this past year.
In the face of legal obstacles and the general repression of labor in general teachers fought back and won. Public sector workers, in West Virginia, do not have the legal right to collectively bargain. It is important to note that the places that have the least legal options for labor seem to have the most radical and invigorating movements. This is not to say that places like West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, simply need to change their laws and all will be well. It is rather that places that have more legal mechanism in place, such as Washington state, labor is more easily subsumed into the formalist processes where we have a disadvantage.
What we have not seen in the news is the actions across the world that teachers are taking. Teachers in several countries, including Zimbabwe, Mexico, and Tunisia, have gone on strike in the past two months. In Zimbabwe, this January protests broke out over the government rising fuel prices, just as we have seen in France. However, the situation is of course different in Zimbabwe as their economy is in tatters, inflation is high, and wages have stagnated. There were fierce confrontations between protesters and police.
The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZTA) and the Progressive Teachers’ Union (PTU) called for a strike after getting no where in negotiations with the government. According to the MSN, there are more than 100,000 public-sector teachers in Zimbabwe and unions say 80 percent of them are on strike. The strike lasted for 5 days from February 5th to the 10th. There are signs that the government and military officials tried to intimidate the teachers. The teachers are primary demanding that their wages be paid in US dollars. ZTA and PTU have said they stand ready to go back on strike if their demands are not met in negotiations with the government. However, now the government is attempting to say the strike was illegal, which the unions refute. Because of this the government is saying they will dock the pay of the teachers for the days they were on strike. This is an attempt to scare teachers into not going on strike again. Meanwhile, in Mexico teachers continue a struggle that has been going on for several years now. In 2013 the Mexican government under then president Enrique Pena Nieto, passed the so called “Education Reform Bill.” Just as in the US this bill put in place tools the government could use to try and break the unions. Such as evaluations that could result in a teacher being terminated for not maintaining levels among their students, which are largely based on tests rather than actual learning. Also, the reform bill put bilingual education in place. English and Spanish. This is a problem because there are large populations of native peoples in Mexico who do not speak English or Spanish. This would lead to not only decreasing levels of education among these populations but also suppress their culture since they would be incentivized to move away from their own culture by suppressing their own language. There had been hope that the new president, Andres Obrador would appeal the law, and there has been new legislation, however, the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educacion (CNTE) says that the new law is not much different then the last one. On February 11th, according to Mexico News Daily, the CNTE in Oaxaca, Section 22, announced it would suspend classes in the state for 3 days, closing schools in 800 locations. Then again on February 22nd in Mexico City teachers from Oaxaca protested against the Education Reform Law. They demand that the General Professional Teaching Service Law be canceled so that positions can be allocated to graduates of Oaxaca’s teacher training colleges in accordance with bilateral agreements between teachers and the Secretariat of Public Education. Also, in Michoacan the CNTE Section 18, in addition to being on strike, began blockading railways towards the end of January. The blockade lasted for 24 days. The strike continues after the blockade was lifted until the back pay that the teachers are demanding is paid. According to Mexico News Daily, supplies destined for factories in Michoacan and other parts of the country have been stranded in the ports of Lazaro Cardenas and Manzanillo, while auto makers and other manufacturers have been prevented from getting their products to the ports for export. Trains transporting gasoline have also been unable to supply parts of the country, such as Jalisco, which are still experiencing fuel shortages. Back in the US, teachers have also been taking action in Kentucky, organized in a group called KY 120 United, in reference to the state’s 120 counties, and also the teachers in WV, and their 55 strong. On the West Coast teachers in Oakland have gone on strike for a raise, smaller class sizes, more counselors and nurses for students. All across the world teachers are standing up for themselves and showing all of the working class how it’s done. It is important to have an international perspective on the class struggle because that is what the capitalists have. Workers will never be able to beat back the capitalist onslaught without challenging them internationally. Teachers all over the world need to stand together and there is hope that they will.