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Teachers on Strike are Still Teaching: Union Power & the Fight for Democracy

For the past 10 years teacher unionists across the country have built the most powerful strikes in a generation. From red states to blue states, Chicago to Arizona, teachers are rising up to challenge vouchers, privatization and racially disparate school funding schemes.

Why have teachers been able to turn the tables on the austerity program and charter industry in such a short period of time? What about teacher unions are strategic within the national and global economy that allows them to exercise such tremendous power and success across geography and circumstance?

Join president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Jesse Sharkey in conversation with Beverly J. Silver, one of the most foremost scholars on the strategic power of teachers' unions. Silver has studied the last 150 years of union power and ascertained some common threads that made miners, steel workers, auto-works, and now teachers so capable of shifting the narrative and balance of power in capitalist countries throughout the world.



Jesse Sharkey was appointed president of the 24,000-member Chicago Teachers Union on September 5, 2018, replacing retiring President Karen Lewis. A member of the CTU since 1998, Jesse has been a champion of workers’ rights throughout his career, believing that the Union’s true power comes from the strength of its rank-and-file and their willingness to fight for the betterment of Chicago’s public school students, families and communities.

Beverly J. Silver is Professor of Sociology and the Director of the Arrighi Center for Global Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She has written widely on the contradictions and limits of historical capitalism, major waves of labor and social conflict, the social foundations of world hegemonies, global inequality, and prospects for a post-capitalist world. She is author of two books, Forces of Labor: Workers’ Movements and Globalization Since 1870, and Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System (with Giovanni Arrighi et al). Among her most recent articles are “Plunges into Utter Destruction and the Limits of Historical Capitalism” (2019) and “Crises of World Hegemony and the Speeding Up of Social History” (2021).

Barbara Madeloni, Labor Notes

Arlene Inouye, Union Power Los Angeles

Annie Tan, Movement of Rank and File Educators

Diamonté Brown, BMORE caucus in Baltimore

Nicole McCormick, West Virginia United Caucus