Barbara Madeloni

Sometimes the boss offers us a fight that directly exposes the destructive effects of corporate power.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that moment came when ExxonMobil asked for yet another handout from taxpayers—property tax exemptions totaling $6 million.

For the ninth-largest corporation in the world, it was a routine request. ExxonMobil is accustomed to receiving such perks from obedient state officials. But teachers saw it differently: as a $6 million theft from the local schools budget.

Let Members Lead

It was a decisive moment in the West Virginia teachers strike. State union leaders, presenting a deal that would leave out some public sector workers, were greeted with a chorus of “back to the table!”

Those educators refused to be talked into a compromise. And, after days out on strike, they knew they had the power to back up that demand.

Fifteen districts started the school year on strike in Washington state—the latest to ride the West Virginia wave.

“For my whole life I thought this was just the way it was, that I would have to struggle to have a sustainable life,” said Anna Cockrum, a teacher in Evergreen, out on her first picket line. “I teach students to stand up for themselves, and it is so cool to be living that.”

As teachers, school employees, and students head back to school, what’s ahead for the #RedforEd movement?

This spring, teachers mobilized on an unprecedented scale in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, North Carolina, and Colorado. They protested, walked out, and even held statewide strikes—in states with limited to no collective bargaining rights, where school unions have traditionally focused on state politics.