Charleston Gazette-Mail: Marick Masters on teachers' strike as turning point for labor

Marick Masters, professor of business and director of Labor@Wayne at Wayne State University, opined about the recent teachers strike in West Virginia that included 35,000 teachers and allied school employees in the region. Marick wrote that the strike showed the political power of solidarity. “These wildcat strikers impelled lawmakers to deviate however momentarily from neoliberal austerity. The Republican trifecta in the Mountain State conceded a 5 percent pay raise for teachers and other state employees and deferred pending increases in health care costs. These stalwart public servants gave labor one of its few victories in recent memory.” Masters concluded: “A final takeaway from the West Virginia experience applies to the prospect that the Supreme Court invalidates the agency shop in its forthcoming Janus ruling. The real strength of labor lies not in its power to compel dues (though this is arguably just and equitable given the obligation of representing all employees of a recognized bargaining unit, regardless of union-membership status) but rather in its capacity to mobilize. Grassroots activism is the heart and soul of a genuine labor movement. Conventional thinking holds that an unfavorable (to unions) ruling in Janus will devastate the ranks of labor. Bear in mind, however, that a sizable chunk of the public sector is already open shop: only 22 states allow the agency shop in that sector and the federal and postal services are already open shop.”

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