In recent years, a disturbing number of politicians have tried to blame public sector unions for their states’ budget crises. The basic argument is that unions have seriously exacerbated budget shortfalls because a significant proportion of state spending is tied up in employee compensation, and unions, via collective bargaining, increase salaries and benefits. A look at the data, however, shows that these assumptions are almost wholly untrue, especially since the wages and benefits of public sector workers tend to be lower than comparable private sector employees.
So what accounts for the concerted attack on public sector workers and their unions at the national state, and local levels, too often resulting in the diminishment of collective bargaining rights, pensions, and union check off arrangements? To a large extent, this is an ideological argument waged on the basis of opinion, rather than fact. In response, the Institute has attempted to present a balanced and factual picture of the positive role of public services, public employees, and public sector unions through research and analysis, conferences, presentations, papers, and blog posts which examine 1) the importance of the union voice on the job both to workers and employers; 2) the role of collective bargaining in encouraging innovation and efficiency; 3) the strategic responses to opponents of public services and public service unions; and, 4) the relationship of good government and a strong union voice to a healthy democracy.
American Labor Movement at a Crossroads: New Thinking, New Organizing, New Strategies
This conference is part of our efforts to focus light on new thinking in the labor movement and and new initiatives in labor organizing, viewing them critically in the light of ongoing union imperatives of cultivating member activism and involvement, fostering democratic self-governance and building the collective power of working people.
A Discussion on the Challenges Facing Government, Public Services and Public Sector Collective Bargaining in the U.S.
Summary and transcripts of a seminar sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute entitled "The War Against Public Service and Public Employee Unions," June 8, 2011.
The Good Schools Seminars
This seminar series is part of an effort to build a network of union leaders, district superintendents, and researchers to work collaboratively on improving public education through a focus on teaching. It emerges from the Albert Shanker Institute’s role as sponsor of provocative discussions about education and public policy reform.
Working for the Common Good at the Bargaining Table and Beyond
National Union Presidents Mark Dimondstein, Christopher Shelton and Randi Weingarten discussed their common good victories in the courts, in the legislature and at the bargaining table.
"Mutualism" Book Discussion with Sara Horowitz and Randi Weingarten
Discussion of "Mutualism: Building the Next Economy from the Ground UP" with author Sara Horowitz and Randi Weingarten
Strike for Common Good Book Discussion
Strike for the Common Good Book Discussion with editor Rebecca Givans and Joe McCartin, Georgetown University. Monday, January 25, 2021, 5:00 pm ET.
The Teacher Insurgency: A Conversation with Leo Casey and Randi Weingarten
In The Teacher Insurgency, Leo Casey addresses how the unexpected wave of recent teacher strikes has had a dramatic impact on American public education, teacher unions, and the larger labor movement.
Whither Brexit: The View From British and Irish Teacher Unions
This panel was presented by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers at the 8th Education International World Congress 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Challenge for Business and Society Book Discussion and Reception with Stanley Litow
Discussant: Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teacher and the Albert Shanker Institute
Puerto Rico: The Road to Recovery and Reconstruction
With the future of Puerto Rico hanging in the balance, this national conference focused on what needs to be done to rebuild the Puerto Rican economy and its educational system in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
The Crisis of Democracy Conference
We are experiencing an organic crisis of democracy, international in scope. This conference will draw together intellectuals and activists from across the globe to examine and explore different dimensions of that crisis.
"TEACHER STRIKE!" Book Discussion & Reception
A wave of teacher strikes in the 1960s and 1970s roiled urban communities. Jon Shelton illuminates how this tumultuous era helped shatter the liberal-labor coalition and opened the door to the neoliberal challenge at the heart of urban education today.
The Challenge of Precarious Labor
To address this challenge, this conference will bring together an international body of thinkers, analysts and activists.
The Albert Shanker Institute at 25
The Shanker Institute turns 25 years old this month!
The Shanker Institute was formed in 1998 to honor the life and legacy of AFT President Al Shanker. The organization’s by-laws commit it to four fundamental principles—vibrant democracy, quality public education, a voice for working people in decisions affecting their jobs and their lives, and free and open debate about all of these issues.
From the beginning the Institute has brought together influential leaders and thinkers from business, labor, government, and education from across the political spectrum. ASI continues to sponsor research, promotes discussions, and seek new and workable approaches to the issues that shape the future of democracy, education, and unionism.
Tiny Crayons & Big Promises: What is Next for Early Care Provider Compensation in the U.S.?
Society’s youngest members have received some pretty big mentions recently—and for good reason. The United States isn’t heading into a childcare crisis any longer; it is fully in it. The already struggling industry was hit especially hard by the pandemic and has impacted families across the nation. The childcare crisis is so pervasive that President Biden prioritized childcare and prekindergarten stating, “if you want America to have the best-educated workforce, let’s finish the job by providing access to preschool” in his State of the Union address.
In the audience, several U.S. Representatives brought individuals directly impacted by the childcare crisis as their guests of honor. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts brought Eugénie Ouedraogo, a mom and nursing student who depends on access to affordable early care and education. Senator Patty Murray of Washington brought Angélica María González, a mother who experienced firsthand the lack or quality care for her children and a Moms Rising advocate. Senator Murray took her statement of support beyond who was sitting with her to what she was wearing. Senator Murray organized Democrats in the House and Senate to wear pins in the shape of tiny crayons to signal support for childcare funding, as President Biden proposed at the beginning of his administration. In an analysis of the State of the State addresses given by governors, First Five Years Fund found that the childcare crisis was an important issue on both sides of the aisle, with 40 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats talking about it. However, of the governors who specifically mentioned early childhood education as a priority for their states, only one in four governors referenced the childcare workforce and the struggle to find, recruit and retain workers. While these are exciting developments (especially in contrast to Donald Trump’s one 16-word sentence in his State of the Union in 2019) why is so little of the conversation centered around the early care workforce? The priority seems to be getting parents with young children back to work with affordable childcare.
In Memoriam: Thomas R. Donahue
It is with great sadness that the Albert Shanker Institute acknowledges the passing of former longtime Shanker Institute board member, Thomas R. Donahue, 94. Donahue was President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO and spent his life as a champion of organized labor and democracy at home and abroad.
Upon hearing the news, American Federation of Teachers and Albert Shanker Institute President Randi Weingarten shared, “Thomas Donahue understood and fought for decades the waves of unrestrained corporate power that undermined workers and their unions. His voice is missed. Condolences to his wife, Rachelle, and his family” on Twitter.
Creating an Innovation Ecosystem that Works for Working People
A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute. In the ninth of these essays, guest authors Amanda Ballantyne et al explore how labor unions help workers navigate economic turmoil and play a crucial role in shaping sweeping societal and workplace technological changes.
The digital transformation of the economy is disrupting workplaces, daily life and the social fabric. Workers face new challenges from advanced robotics, big data, artificial intelligence, and social media that exacerbate economic and racial inequality. Big business and Big Tech companies, supercharged by taxpayer-funded research, are imposing these changes on workers without their consent or input. This has minted a host of tech billionaires, but workers have not gotten a fair share of the economic benefits. Labor unions have long helped workers navigate economic turmoil and have a crucial role to play in shaping the technological changes that are sweeping society and the workplace.
Read the full article.
AFT Solidarity with Ukraine
“We have a long history of showing up. Showing up for freedom, showing up for democracy, showing up for education, both here and abroad.”
This is what American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told Nicole Wallace of MSNBC News about why she led a delegation to Lviv, Ukraine this month to meet with Ukrainian educators, trade unionists, medical workers and others engaged in the life and death struggle for Ukraine’s survival against Russian aggression.
The AFT’s history of showing up is longstanding in Central and Eastern Europe. It dates to efforts before, during and after World War II to save trade unionists from fascist and communist tyranny in the region. As well, the AFT was the most active international union among AFL-CIO and international trade secretariat affiliates supporting the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland, both during the decade of martial law repression as well as the country’s dramatic transition from Soviet-imposed communism to democracy in 1988-89.
A.I.’s Impact on Jobs, Skills and the Future of Work: the UNESCO Perspective on Key Policy Issues and the Ethical Debate
A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. This is the first of these essays.
In “A.I.’s Impact on Jobs, Skills and the Future of Work: the UNESCO Perspective on Key Policy Issues and the Ethical Debate,” Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General at UNESCO, discusses how artificial intelligence does not necessarily need to be a boogeyman. If AI is developed with people in mind, then the inclusive possibilities of AI are infinite. Ramos discusses these possibilities, and the path to get there, while focusing on the key issues of gender and discrimination.
NEJPP Editor's Introduction to the Future of Work Series
A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. Each week for the next nine weeks the Shanker Blog will feature one of these essays. This is the introduction to the series by NEJPP's founding editor, Padraig O'Malley.
A Special Message from the Shanker Institute
We go into Memorial Day—a day reserved for honoring those who died for our democracy while serving our country in the U.S. military—after a month of heart-breaking news and experiences.
School Nurses: We Have Been Here All Along
In honor of National School Nurse Day, guest author Dr. Thomas Stinson, a school nurse and AFT member, talks about the vital role of school nurses which has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How many people actually know what school nurses do? Probably not many. This is undoubtedly why, as National School Nurse Day approached, one of my mentors asked if I was willing to write a blog. As a practicing school nurse in an urban public school since November of 1997, I thought this was a great opportunity to share my perspective on the important role school nurses play within society which has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Classrooms and Class Struggle at Indiana University: Graduate Student Workers Seek Recognition, Administration Refuses
Guest author Jeffrey C. Isaac, James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science, has been teaching at Indiana University for over 35 years. This is the first of a number of reports he will file on the unfolding labor situation at Indiana University.
As anyone familiar with the operations of higher education in the U.S. knows, graduate students play an indispensable role as workers on campuses across the country.
They work as Graders, Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Classroom Instructors.
Much of the work they do is work that better-paid full-time faculty members once did. But for a variety of reasons, universities have discovered that much of this work can be done much more cost-effectively, i.e., cheaply, by contingent faculty and graduate students. At some universities, upwards of 20% or more of the work of undergraduate teaching is being done by graduate students.
The corporate officials who run our universities, in league with the Boards of Trustees to whom they are accountable, choose to regard the work being done by graduate students as “professional development” rather than as work. And they choose to regard the graduate student workers who do this work as students subject to various forms of tutelage and authority, rather than as workers capable of speaking and acting for themselves.