800 Scranton educators prepare for strike after 4 years without a contract


After working four years without a contract, 800 teachers and paraprofessionals from the Scranton Federation of Teachers are preparing for strike action. If an agreement is not reached between the union and the district management, a strike will begin on November 3.

The SFT leadership announced the strike after four years of work without a contract or pay raise – and just after the Scranton school board approved a budget that does not include any pay hikes for teachers. When annual inflation is factored in, stagnant salaries actually mean that teachers have to take a pay cut every year. And inflation has increased this year, now standing at 5.4 percent.

Meanwhile, teachers in Scranton have returned to classrooms amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already claimed more than 700,000 lives in the United States alone.

School district principals play shy. They say they are indeed offering salary increases to teachers. But without a budget approving a pay rise, their plan would mean cutting funds elsewhere – a move calculated to turn parents against the union and divide union members themselves into a choice between higher pay and funding others. aspects of Scranton schools.

In preparing to strike, the SFT is also fighting years of austerity that resulted in fewer services for students and more crowded classrooms – at a time when more crowded rooms mean more risk of student illness. Covid-19 for teachers and students. They are demanding the restoration of key aspects of the schools that had been suppressed, from libraries to music lessons.

The importance of ranking and ranking action

Judging by the past few years – and the refusal of school district principals to concede – it seems likely that there will be no major concessions from the bosses without a strike. But it will take grassroots and grassroots organization to prepare for an organization that can win major grants from the school district. Union leaders cannot win a strike; only the base can do it.

One of the reasons is the need to mobilize as broadly as possible within the union to prevent scabbreakers from breaking a strike – whether they are union members who might be tempted to cross a picket line or others. Stopping scabs is about having strong pickets that aren’t afraid to intimidate and stop scabs who try to get through and the cops who are there to help them. Union leaders across the country have too often been very weak in the face of scabs over the past 40 years; only the ranks and declarers can make a strong stake and enforce it.

Another reason is the importance of gaining the support of parents. Winning them on strike will require a massive mobilization of union members, as school district bosses and local newspapers will be filled with anti-union slogans to turn public support against the union.

And more than that: ranking and declarers are absolutely crucial in gaining the active support of other sectors of the working class.

This is because more solidarity means bigger and potentially more powerful picket lines. And since the district could try to force online education in the event of a strike – which would make it easier for scabs to bond with other workers and move towards sympathy strikes, would give strikers much more. of power to win their claims.

Solidarity strikes would mean strengthening teachers’ union and workers in general. They associate the teachers’ struggle with a power to disrupt the economy at large – which would put more pressure on politicians and bosses to take up residence, for fear of emboldening the working class even more.

Sympathy strikes have been rare in the United States in recent years. This is in part because these types of strikes are illegal. The fact that they are illegal is just proof of their power and the fear Democrats and Republicans, as well as the bosses, have of them. The fact remains that a strike powerful enough – large enough and committed – to win does not have to worry about legality, since it forces the bosses and their policies to make concessions. Building towards such actions should come from the grassroots themselves, reaching out to all unions.

Ultimately, grassroots organization is crucial because it empowers union members in the broadest way possible, making the struggle against the bosses the struggle of every member. This is the way of putting decisions and power directly into the hands of the workers themselves – and it opens up the possibility of the kinds of power and solidarity that our union leaders often balk at.

But all of this points to the idea that mass trade union democracy is the key. Preparing strong pickets, approaching the ranks of other unions for solidarity actions, gaining the support of parents on the broadest basis – this will require real and democratic places – assemblies for teachers and paraprofessionals for s ‘organize, coordinate, reach out to others and mobilize en masse.

“Without our brains and muscles, no wheel can turn” – and no course can be taught. A strike seems to be on the horizon for the SFT. And with that comes a chance to empower workers – and help turn Striketober into Strikevember.

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