This is the final issue in a four-part special series titled Contemporary Educator Movements: Transforming Unions, Schools, and Society in North America. While the previous three issues explored educator organizing in the United States, this issue expands the focus of the series to educator organizing across the Americas. The interviewees and authors in this issue offer engaged research and narratives of organizing in educator networks and unions in Canada and Chile. In doing so, they provide insights into the importance of internal organizational structures, external networks, and solidarity with and for struggles for justice in schools and society.
The question this article attempts to answer is, how can teacher unions take advantage of the opportunities afforded by their organizational structures while minimizing the factors that have stood in the way of educational and societal change? Drawing from examples of teacher unions’ strategies from studies of several organizations outside of the United States, it provides examples of how teacher unions have “crafted coherence” between their inner dimensions and outward-looking strategies, and contributes to the advancement of critical education by recommending ways that teacher organizations can more effectively support social justice and social change.
In this interview, Ontario Education Workers United (OEWU) member Deborah Buchanan-Walford talks with Rhiannon Maton about how the OEWU engages in grassroots organizing for improved working and learning conditions in Ontario, Canada public schools. We discuss the learning and workplace challenges experienced in adult day schools during Covid-19, issues of power centralization within the broader educators union, and the significance of activist educators organizing in spaces that are external to their union.
The return of the Conservatives to power in Ontario, Canada in 2018 saw major attacks on the province’s K-12 education system, centering on increases to class size and mandatory e-learning courses for students which, taken together with other budget cuts, amounted to the elimination of thousands of teaching and support staff positions, as well as threats of privatization. These policies provoked widespread resistance from education workers, who as union members and grassroots activists conducted extensive outreach to build public support, engaged in job actions, and participated in the largest strikes in Ontario for decades as part of the campaign for “No Cuts to Education.” The start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 ended the movement. This article assesses the victories and defeats of this key struggle in defense of public education. It considers the strategies and tactics of provincial and local union leadership and activist members, in which the battle with the provincial government for the alignment of public support was widely recognized as being of decisive importance. The author uses autoethnographic research as a local union leader, interviews with active union members, policy documents, union statements and media coverage to construct an historical account. This experience has relevance for studies of teachers’ resistance to the neoliberalization of education, as well as social movement unionism and its challenges.
In this afterword, the editors of the special series Contemporary Educator Movements: Transforming Unions, Schools, and Society in North America reflect on the purpose and contributions the series. After reviewing relevant research, they discuss the focus of each of the four issues in the special series as well as themes that appear across the series. Finally, they highlight some of the contributions this series makes to research on social justice unionism and educator organizing.