Teachers’ strikes in Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia last year, as well as a walkout in Denver last month, have raised questions about whether Tennessee teachers might pursue a similar course.
Now, a new activist group seeking to encourage teachers to engage in a work stoppage in Tennessee, has some policy makers wondering whether a teacher strike could happen sooner rather than later. In fact, the Tennessee Education Report, run by liberal Democrat activist Andy Spears, appears to be encouraging a teacher strike in the state with four recent “calls for action.”
Teacher strikes have been illegal in Tennessee since 1978, but they are also unlawful in other states where teachers walked off their jobs. Teachers in Tennessee who participated in a strike would be subject to discipline, up to and including the loss of their jobs. Last year, when the prospects of a teachers’ strike in Tennessee arose, Tennessee Education Association (TEA) lobbyist Jim Wrye dismissed the threat posed by Tennessee law saying that if a large number of teachers walk off the job “you can’t fire everybody.”
One of the activists promoting the strike agenda is also not dissuaded by the letter of the law. “They aren’t God’s laws,” Labor Notes union organizer Chris Brooks (a former TEA staffer) recently told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
“They can be broken. Districts don’t have the resources they need, teachers don’t have the resources they need. Teachers are leaving in droves. The idea that if thousands go on strike, districts will fire them is laughable.”
Should such wildcat strikes commence in Tennessee, new Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn will face a significant challenge in determining the proper course of action.
And the TEA will face its own set of challenges, as well, since supporting such wildcat strike actions could threaten its own legal standing in the state, and publicly opposing them could limit its support among radical teachers.
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Photo “Teacher Strike” by Brad Perkins.