Red State Revolt: The Teachers' Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics (Jacobin) (Paperback)
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An indispensable window into the changing shape of the American working class and American politics
Thirteen months after Trump allegedly captured the allegiance of “the white working class,” a strike wave—the first in over four decades—rocked the United States. Inspired by the wildcat victory in West Virginia, teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona, and across the country walked off their jobs and shut down their schools to demand better pay for educators, more funding for students, and an end to years of austerity.
Confounding all expectations, these working-class rebellions erupted in regions with Republican electorates, weak unions, and bans on public sector strikes. By mobilizing to take their destinies into their own hands, red state school workers posed a clear alternative to politics as usual. And with similar actions now gaining steam in Los Angeles, Oakland, Denver, and Virginia, there is no sign that this upsurge will be short-lived.
Red State Revolt is a compelling analysis of the emergence and development of this historic strike wave, with an eye to extracting its main strategic lessons for educators, labor organizer, and radicals across the country. A former high school teacher and longtime activist, Eric Blanc embedded himself into the rank-and-file leaderships of the walkouts, where he was given access to internal organizing meetings and secret Facebook groups inaccessible to most journalists. The result is one of the richest portraits of the labor movement to date, a story populated with the voices of school workers who are winning the fight for the soul of public education—and redrawing the political map of the country at large.
About the Author
A former high school teacher, Eric Blanc has covered the strike wave for Jacobin, The Nation, and The Guardian.
“Eric Blanc’s compelling new book, Red State Revolt, is a thoroughly researched and eloquently written story of one of the most powerful social movements of our time. His incisive reporting shows how teachers, through labor organizing and strategic strikes, are protecting and strengthening public education, the great equalizing force of any democratic society.”
—Amy Goodman, Host & Executive Producer, Democracy Now!
“Before 2018, strikes had become so rare in this country that hardly anyone knew what they were. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, they began. Not in left-wing cities but in the reddest of red states. Not of white men in factories but of teachers, many of them women, many of them of color. Eric Blanc spent months with the strikers, talking to them on picket lines, listening to them in meetings, sharing with them on Facebook threads, and more. Like Orwell in Barcelona, he’s given us a first-hand report from the front lines, making sense of the most improbable political story of an improbable decade. This is exhilarating reading about a movement that will be shaping politics for decades to come.”
—Corey Robin, author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump
“Eric Blanc has written the best on-the-ground description and explanation of the red state teachers’ revolt. He was there and he understands that what happened is historic. The brave teachers who walked out in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and other red states started a powerful trend. They give hope that the reactionary politics of the past forty years may be reversed by working people who realize that ‘enough is enough.’ Blanc’s enthralling description of their struggles is a chronicle that should be widely read.”
—Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System
“Read this book to understand the many important lessons educators so powerfully taught about what it will take to rebuild a working-class movement, defeat Trumpism, and take on the billionaires.”
—Jane McAlevey, author of No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age
“The last places in today’s America you would expect mass strikes would be the ultra-red states of West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona—until tens of thousands of education workers there organized themselves and shut down the schools. Red State Revolt gives a unique inside view of how these actions were organized and how they forced state governments and rightwing politicians not only to raise teachers pay but to elevate the role of public education. If you want to understand the power of workers and the strike, even in a time when labor seems down if not out, read Red State Revolt.”
—Jeremy Brecher, author of Strike!
“There could be real potential in a national campaign around basic needs like public education. For thinking through how to go about building that movement—how to connect struggles by the workers who provide such public goods to the communities that depend upon them, and above all how to deploy the power of our best weapon, the strike—Red State Revolt is indispensable.”
—Samir Sonti, New Labor Forum