Following on the heels of a wave of successful and massive statewide teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona, teacher’s across southwest Washington went on strike after districts tried to keep money in the bank that had been handed down by the state legislature specifically to pay for raises and more teachers.
Despite that fact that teachers pay for supplies out of their own pockets, have to work second and third jobs to pay their bills, and are generally overworked, the bad bosses at the district offices thought padding their rainy day funds was more important than living wages for teachers.
At Portland Jobs with Justice we knew it was going to be a tough fight and indeed districts held out, some even filed injunctions to try to force teachers back to work. But we also knew that with students, parents, and the rest of the community firmly behind teachers who were ready to fight, that they would win.
When we learned that teachers across the river were striking we immediately began organizing community support, and on day two of the strike dozens of Portlanders joined the Solidarity Squad Flying Caravan. Over the river and #RedforEd, the caravan stopped at three different schools (an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school) in the Evergreen School District to provide strike support and walk the picket line with teachers.
For the next two weeks, community members continued to show up and walk the picket line in solidarity with striking teachers. Because solidarity is how we build movements that can win.
The Washington teacher strikes shutdown dozens of schools in 9 districts. Over 6,000 teachers went on strike and the start of the school year was delayed by two weeks for over 100,000 students. We were right, it was a tough fight. But the teachers stayed strong, they fought hard, and they showed us what it means to organize to win.
When courts ruled in favor of injunctions and ordered teachers in Longview and Battleground back to work, the teachers voted overwhelmingly to violate the injunction, risk arrest, and remain on strike. It is no surprise that within a day or two of that vote, districts began to cave.
Because when we strike, we win.