2018–19 education workers' strikes in the United States

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2018–19 teachers' strikes in the United States
-RedForEd (27856929808).jpg
Teachers striking in Arizona
DateFebruary 23, 2018 – ongoing
Caused by
Resulted in
  • Arizona: 20 percent pay raise[1]
  • Colorado: 2 percent pay raise; increased school spending[2]
  • Los Angeles 6 percent pay raise, class size reduction, increased support staff[3][4]
  • Oklahoma: Increased school funding, teacher raises by $6,000, support staff raises by $1,250[5][6]
  • Virginia: 5 percent pay raise
  • West Virginia: 5 percent pay raise[7]
Lead figures
* AFL–CIO * State and city governments:
  • ~20,000 in Arizona
  • ~6,000 in Colorado
  • ~30,000 in Los Angeles
  • ~30,000 in North Carolina
  • ~10,000 in Oklahoma
  • ~4,000 in Virginia
  • ~10,000 in West Virginia

The 2018–19 education workers' strikes in the United States began on February 22, 2018, after local activists compelled the West Virginia state leadership of the West Virginia branches of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association into holding a strike vote. The strike—which ended when teachers returned to their classrooms on March 7—inspired similar, statewide strikes in Oklahoma and Arizona. It also inspired smaller-scale protests by school staff in Kentucky, North Carolina, Colorado, and led to a school bus driver strike in Georgia. Additionally, around this time, adjunct professors at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia protested over pay.

The strikes continued in the fall of 2018 when there was a collective bargaining shortcoming between the United Teachers Los Angeles union and the Los Angeles Unified School District in September 2018, prompting a strike that began in January 2019. This also resulted in a teachers' walkout in Virginia, a long-time right-to-work state, as well as in Denver and Oakland, California.[8][9] The national wave of strikes has been referred to as Red for Ed or #RedforEd, with striking workers often wearing red shirts to show solidarity.[10][11] Reasons given for the choice of the color red range from the fact that many of the initial strikes were in red (Republican-controlled) states to the idea that public school budgets are in the red.[10]

Motivations for the strikes included desire for increased wages for teachers and support staff, larger school budgets, smaller classrooms, and other issues. The strikes varied in their levels of success, with West Virginia considered mostly successful, where Oklahoman teachers received relatively few concessions.

Origins and overview[edit]

Discussions of a strike in West Virginia began in early 2018. In the first week of February, teachers staged "walk-ins" at schools and some protested at the West Virginia Capitol.[12] The strike proved successful, and inspired those in other states to strike as well.[13]

In early April, Oklahoma became the second state to strike, making it the first time a teacher's strike was held in the state since 1990.[14] The strike lasted for 10 days, from April 2-12, after teacher salaries were increased by $6,000 and support staff salaries were increased by $1,250.[15]

In late April, teachers in Arizona and in Colorado went on strike. The Colorado strike began on April 27[16] and ended on May 12,[17] while the Arizona Strike lasted from April 26 to May 3.[18]

In May 2018, it was reported that teachers in North Carolina could be next to strike, making it the fifth state to have a teachers' strike.[19] This was due to the state being ranked 41st in the nation in salaries for teachers, and per pupil spending at negative 12 percent.[20] Further, it was reported that teachers in North Carolina have seen a five percent decrease in salaries since 2008. Furthermore, teachers hired after January 1, 2021, will not receive health benefits, along with teachers having to pay $10,000 per year in out of pocket health insurance.[21]

Because of a majority of the strikes being in predominantly Republican Party-controlled, conservative states,[22] the strikes have been referred to as the "Red State Revolt".[23][24][25] This has prompted several Republican politicians to concede to their demands, in the run-up to the 2018 mid-term elections.[26]

Pension costs[edit]

One of the largest reasons for decreasing teacher pay and less funding for schools is the large amount of money diverted from current budgets to pay educators' unfunded pension liabilities. [27]:1 For example: "In Colorado, school district payments to the public pension fund have roughly doubled since 2006, from about 10 percent of payroll to 20 percent." [27]

A 2016 study found that only 30% of the money that school districts pay towards the retirement benefits of an educator actually go toward that educator's pension, with 70% being used to pay off unfunded debt in that pension system. [27]:1


Universally, demands included raising pay.[28][29] In Oklahoma and West Virginia, respectively sources of oil and coal, demands included financing the increased spending on education through taxation focused on these industries.[30][31]

Original reason for the strike included the state's plan to force teachers to use fitbit to be allowed to keep subscribing to the same healthplan or face a $500 annual fine.[32]


2018 teacher education strikes by state.svg

  Strikes and protests lead to increase in education pay and funding.
  Strikes and protests did not lead to government action.

Summary of strikes and protests by location[edit]

State Location Date started Status of protests Outcome
 Arizona Statewide April 26, 2018 Ended May 3, 2018
  • Statewide strike
  • 20% salary raise for teachers by 2020
  • 9% raise for teachers in 2018–19 school year
  • subsequent 5% raises for the next two years
  • Increased support staff salaries
 California Los Angeles January 14, 2019 Ended January 22, 2019
  • District-wide teachers strike
  • 6% salary increase
  • Reduction in class sizes
  • Increase in support staff
Oakland February 21, 2019 Ended February 28, 2019
  • District-wide teachers strike
  • 11% salary increase over four years
  • Reduction in class sizes
  • Delay in school closures for 5 months
Sacramento April 11, 2019 One-day strike
Union City May 20, 2019 Ended June 7, 2019
 Colorado Statewide April 27, 2018 Ended May 12, 2018
  • Teachers strike in numerous counties
  • 2% salary increase
  • Education budget restored to pre-Recession levels
Denver February 11, 2019 Ended February 14, 2019
  • District-wide teachers strike
  • 7 to 11% salary increase
  • Pay scale changes that increase emphasis on teacher training and experience
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia DeKalb County April 19, 2018 Ended April 23, 2018
  • Bus drivers' strike in DeKalb County
  • Seven bus drivers fired
  • Ongoing collective bargaining between school district and bus drivers
 Kentucky Statewide April 2, 2018
 North Carolina Statewide May 16, 2018 One-day strike
Statewide May 1, 2019 One-day strike
  • Over half of school districts forced to close
 Oklahoma Statewide April 2, 2018 Ended April 12, 2018
  • Statewide teachers strike
  • $6,000 salary raise for teachers
  • $1,250 salary raise for support staff
  • Increased public school funding through tobacco tax
 South Carolina Statewide May 1, 2019 One-day strike
  • Over 10,000 at state capitol
  • Several school districts forced to close
 Tennessee Nashville May 3, 2019

Negotiations ongoing. Metro Nashville Public Schools has requested increased funding. [33]

 Virginia Virginia Commonwealth University February 28, 2018 Ended May 12, 2018
Statewide January 28, 2019 One-day strike
 West Virginia Statewide February 22, 2018 Ended March 7, 2018
  • Statewide strike
  • 5% pay raise for teachers

Major events[edit]


Teachers striking in Arizona at the state capital with the slogan Red for Ed. (2018)


Los Angeles[edit]

North Carolina[edit]


West Virginia[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Snow, Anita; Tang, Terry (May 3, 2018). "Arizona teachers end walkout after governor signs off on 20 percent raise". Chicago Tribune. tronc. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  2. ^ Whaley, Monte (May 12, 2018). "Pueblo teachers reach tentative agreement with district for 2 percent pay hike". The Denver Post. Digital First Media. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  3. ^ Blume, Howard; Kohli, Sonali (22 January 2019). "LAUSD teachers' strike ends. Teachers to return to classrooms Wednesday". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  4. ^ Weber, Christopher; Melley, Brian (22 January 2019). "Los Angeles Teachers Approve Contract, End Strike". U.S. News & World Report. Associated Press. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  5. ^ Blanc, Eric (13 April 2018). "Red Oklahoma". Jacobin. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  6. ^ Goldstein, Dana (12 April 2018). "Oklahoma Teachers End Walkout After Winning Raises and Additional Funding". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  7. ^ Krieg, Gregory. "Is the West Virginia teachers' strike the future of American labor?" (6 March 2018). CNN. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  8. ^ Campbell, Alexia Fernández (February 14, 2019). "The Denver teachers strike is over. They won". Vox. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  9. ^ "Oakland teachers go on strike, demand pay raises". NBC News. Associated Press. February 21, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Nittle, Nadra. "Here's Why So Many Striking Teachers Wear Red". Racked. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  11. ^ Jones, Sarah. "Red for Ed Continues: Where Teachers' Strikes Are Set to Spread Next". NYMag.com. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  12. ^ Delk, Josh (2 February 2018). "Hundreds of teachers hold walkout, protest in West Virginia". The Hill. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  13. ^ Rios, Edwin (23 March 2018). "Educators Across the US Are Using the West Virginia Teachers' Strike to Inspire Their Own Battle Plans – Mother Jones". Mother Jones. Mother Jones. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  14. ^ Cohen, Rachel (March 6, 2018). "TEACHER UNREST SPREADS TO OKLAHOMA, WHERE EDUCATORS ARE "DESPERATE FOR A SOLUTION"". The Intercept. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  15. ^ "US: Arizona teachers vote for first-ever statewide strike". Al Jazeera. April 20, 2018. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  16. ^ "Schools in Arizona and Colorado set to stay closed due to teacher strike". Reuters. Thomson Reuters. April 30, 2018. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  17. ^ "Pueblo teachers reach tentative agreement with district for 2 percent pay hike". Denver Post. May 12, 2018. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  18. ^ Snow, Anita; Tang, Terry. "Arizona teachers end walkout after governor signs off on 20 percent raise". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  19. ^ Elk, Mike (April 30, 2018). "North Carolina Teachers to Strike in May – Louisiana Teachers Could Follow – Georgia Bus Drivers Fired for Striking". paydayreport.com. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  20. ^ Scott, Tamara (April 30, 2018). "Report: North Carolina ranks 37th in nation for teacher pay". WNCT-TV. Nexstar Media Group. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  21. ^ Strauss, Valerie (May 1, 2018). "Could North Carolina's teachers be next to strike? Here's the mess they're in". washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  22. ^ Carlson, Deven (April 12, 2018). "Not just a 'red-state revolt': The story behind the Oklahoma teacher walkout". brookings.edu. Brookings Institution. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  23. ^ Pearce, Matt (April 2, 2018). "Red-state revolt continues: Teachers strike in Oklahoma and protest in Kentucky". Los Angeles Times. tronc. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  24. ^ Weir, Bill (April 26, 2018). "Arizona teachers walk out of their poorly equipped classrooms". CNN. Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  25. ^ Jamieson, Dave; Waldron, Travis (April 7, 2018). "The Red-State Teacher Revolt Has Been Brewing For Decades". HuffPost. Oath Inc. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  26. ^ "Teacher rebellion puts red-state Republicans on defensive". Chicago Tribune. tronc. April 3, 2018. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  27. ^ a b c Eason, Brian (May 1, 2018). "What's driving the latest wave of teacher strikes? Pension problems, some say". PBS.org. Archived from the original on 2019-06-01. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  28. ^ Osberg, Molly (2 April 2018). "Oklahoma Is the Latest Red State Where Teachers Are Rising Up". Splinter. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  29. ^ "We demand..." AEU. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  30. ^ Jones, Sarah (2 March 2018). "The West Virginia Teachers' Strike Takes Aim at Coal and Gas". The New Republic. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  31. ^ Blanc, Eric (11 April 2018). "The Oklahoma Strike Is At a Crossroads". Jacobin. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  32. ^ "Fahrenheit 11/9", documentary by M.Moore
  33. ^ "Some Metro Council members say they want more money for schools". 2019-05-29.
  34. ^ Adams, Cameron Taylor, Alexandria. "More than 1,400 Metro teachers hold sickout for better pay". WSMV Nashville. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  35. ^ "About 1,000 Nashville teachers miss school again in pay dispute". 2019-05-06.
  36. ^ "Teachers protest for better schools funding". 2019-05-15.