In March 2020, New York City became the U.S. epicenter of the emerging Covid-19 crisis. Yet neither city leaders, nor school district officials, nor teacher union leadership provided a meaningful response to a mounting public health crisis. Instead, the city’s fledgling social justice teachers’ union caucus, MORE, rose to the call. At the beginning of the pandemic, the caucus was in, arguably, its historically weakest position in years. By the end, it was stronger than ever before. How did the caucus turn a crisis into an opportunity?
By clarifying crises as “turning points” rather than the external challenges themselves, we hope to contribute to a sociological reframing of the concept. Crises force political groups to contend over competing visions of the social world and possible paths forward. In this way, a crisis causes a clash of myths about the ruling order, as much as a breakdown of the ruling order. Crises force politicized groups to contest different visions. This understanding of crisis emphasizes actors’ agentic responses in the face of external challenges and, especially, the organizational forms, such as unions and parties, that can cohere and channel those responses and subsequent collective action.
On September 12th, 2022, approximately 15,000 nurses went on strike across Minnesota and Wisconsin in one of the largest private sector work stoppages by nurses in U.S. history. Workers demanded increased staffing and higher wages to retain nurses after working for over two years through a deadly pandemic. In compliance with U.S. labor law, healthcare workers need to provide a ten-day notice of a work stoppage. Rather than remain on strike indefinitely until reaching a contract settlement, the nurses and their union, the Minnesota Nurses Association, planned a ‘fixed duration’ strike that lasted three days. These work stoppages involve workers predetermining strike duration – generally five days or less – ahead of time, returning to work unconditionally at the conclusion of the strike. According to data from the ILR Labor Action Tracker – a research project led by myself to comprehensively document strike activity across the United States – 15 out of 22 work stoppages by registered nurses in 2021 were of a fixed duration, suggesting that this type of strike has become an important tactic during contract campaigns.
After decades of debate on the best practices to revitalize the labor movement in the […]
The story of military sites contributing to environmental injustices in Las Vegas offer us an important lesson of accountability on the U.S. Military for environmental injustices. Those on the frontlines, including nearby civilians and lower-rank military personnel, are more likely to experience detrimental health and environmental impacts from defense-related operations. Therefore, when thinking about contributors to environmental injustices, we must include the military into the equation.
When he first arrived at Eastern Correctional Facility, in the spring of 2010, Juan wasn’t too concerned about his personal finances. After all, he thought, wasn’t the prison system going to provide him with “three hots and a cot”, if nothing else? It only took him a few days and several trips to the facility’s mess hall, to realize that this was not going to be the case. Mess hall portions were meager and food was of poor quality, when not altogether inedible. Because of that, he learned, most of his peers were spending hundreds of dollars per month just to purchase extra food at the prison commissary store. In addition to food, Juan needed to spend money to buy basic hygiene products, such as shampoo and deodorant, which the facility did not provide. Finally, there was the cost of keeping in touch with his loved ones on the outside: Securus Technology, the largest prison telecommunication company in the nation, charged New York prisoners $0.65c for a 15-minute phone call, and $0.25c for a single e-mail. Between food, hygiene, and phone calls home, Juan estimated spending approximately $350 during his first month of incarceration, plus another […]
Just as the profit imperative coldly choreographs the economic encounter, the test score imperative subtracts autonomy from the educational equation. The process of producing test scores deprofessionalizes teachers, disengages students, and mechanicalizes the art of teaching and learning. Teachers are tasked with transforming disimpassioned pupils into rote learners. Instruction becomes a means to the end of testing like the production of goods and services is a means to the end of profiting.