Last week Arizona Governor Doug Ducey awarded Arizona's teachers a significant pay raise—20% over two years—after a six-day strike of more than 20,000 teachers that effectively shut down the state's school system. The win in Arizona came just two months after West Virginia teachers walked out in a nine-day protest that resulted in a 5% pay increase, signed by West Virginia Governor James C. Justice.
Teachers' unions in both states have praised the pay increases as a win for teachers and students both, though say there's more work to be fought for, including increased per-pupil funding, decreased class sizes, and addressing the rising costs of health insurance that take a large bite out of teacher pay. But these results point to the importance of labor organization and collective voices that make the issues of working people difficult for lawmakers to ignore. Savvy, strong organizing by teachers' unions to address deep educational budget cuts brought together tens of thousands of teachers in smoothly-run, visually eye-catching walkout events like Arizona's #RedForEd campaign that caught national attention, and eventually swayed reluctant lawmakers to approve the overdue pay raises.
Higher pay isn't just a win for teachers, but for students, and by extension the community, all of whom win when fair pay and working conditions attract and retain high-quality professionals.