In March 2023, nearly 30,000 public school employees went on a three-day strike in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). This was the most recent large-scale school strike in the US, and it impacted over half a million students. The strikers included teacher aides, bus drivers, custodians, administrators, and other school workers.
However, strikes among school employees have become more frequent in the last few years. The LAUSD strike was the latest of 75 strikes over the past 30 years, with 27 happening since 2018. This figure includesall coordinated work stoppages involving 1,000 or more K-12 public school workers and lasting at least one day.
Although the LAUSD strike was not carried out by non-teaching staff, teachers calling for better working conditions have led most of the recent strikes.
Are teacher strikes becoming more common?
In 2018, teachers helped cultivate a grassroots movement called Red for Ed. Across the country, teachers walked out of schools calling for better wages and resources. From 2018 to 2019, groups of 1,000 or more school employees launched 19 different strikes. This included a walkout in North Carolina of 123,000 employees, an 81,000-person walkout in Arizona, and a 63,000-person walkout in Colorado. Smaller walkouts not tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics also occurred across the nation.
In the years following COVID-19 school closures, teachers have continued to organize large-scale walkouts. While it’s too early to say if the increase in walkouts will continue, the six major teacher strikes in 2022 constitutes one of the highest figures in the past three decades.
Are teacher strikes legal?
While the National Labor Relations Act protects private employees from retaliation when striking or engaging in collective bargaining, it does not apply to public employees.
As a result, the legality of teacher strikes depends on the state. As of July 2020, 34 states and Washington, DC, do not allow teacher strikes. However, that has not stopped teachers from staging walkouts or “sick-outs,” where teachers collectively call out sick on the same day. Arizona, West Virginia, and Oklahoma are three examples of states that participated in Red for Ed despite state policies against teacher strikes.
In those situations, strikers rely on strength in numbers. Teachers could theoretically be fired or lose their teaching certification, but states are unlikely to retaliate against tens of thousands of teachers at once.
Explore every large-scale teacher strike of the past 30 years below.