How a Teachers Strike Could Affect the City

A newspaper page from the teachers strike 1975

A newspaper page from the teachers strike 1975

Daevan Mangalmurti, Editor

In light of the authorization today of a strike by members of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (read more here), students and parents have been confronted with a question that has not been asked for a decade: “How do we prepare?”

Unfortunately, there is relatively little that can be done to make specific plans for a strike at this stage in the process, but it is worth it to take a look at examples from Pittsburgh’s past as well as similar cities around the country.

The last time there was a strike in Pittsburgh, it was 1975, and the city was roughly 40% larger and far more financially stable than it is today. Despite that, or perhaps as a result, the strike put incredible stress on teacher-community bonds and shook the foundations of liberalism through the rest of the decade. Some studies have even attributed shifting attitudes towards unions and an increase in conservatism in the 70s to the fallout of the strike. A strike today might not have the same impact, but it would shake Pittsburgh’s dreams of solidifying its tech hub status and attracting new investment as a result of the city exiting Act 47.

A case study for how to prepare for a strike today comes from the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, which is the same size as Pittsburgh and just barely avoided a teachers strike over the past two days. As recently as this weekend a strike was believed to be on the horizon, and plans were made for some students to be shuttled to activities organized by community organizations, and for some meals to be provided by the district, but even their organizers admit that those efforts would have only reached a small portion of students. It is unclear if any of the major municipal actors in Pittsburgh have created procedures to follow in case of a strike, but it would be heartening if their plans end up resembling those made in St. Paul, should a strike occur.