Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics

Thursday June 20, 7:00PM

@ Red Emma's

Eric Blanc presents his brand new book on the wave of teacher-led agitation against austerity and for education for all, with special guest Natalia Bacchus of the Baltimore Movement of Rank and File Educators (BMORE). Co-sponsored by BMORE and Baltimore DSA.

Thirteen months after Trump allegedly captured the allegiance of “the white working class,” a strike wave—the first in over four decades—rocked the United States. Inspired by the wildcat victory in West Virginia, teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona, and across the country walked off their jobs and shut down their schools to demand better pay for educators, more funding for students, and an end to years of austerity.

Confounding all expectations, these working-class rebellions erupted in regions with Republican electorates, weak unions, and bans on public sector strikes. By mobilizing to take their destinies into their own hands, red state school workers posed a clear alternative to politics-as-usual. And with similar actions now gaining steam in Los Angeles, Oakland, Denver, and Virginia, there is no sign that this upsurge will be short-lived.  

Red State Revolt is a compelling analysis of the emergence and development of this historic strike wave, with an eye to extracting its main strategic lessons for educators, labor organizer, and radicals across the country. A former high school teacher and longtime activist, Eric Blanc embedded himself into the rank-and-file leaderships of the walkouts, where he was given access to internal organizing meetings and secret Facebook groups inaccessible to most journalists. The result is one of the richest portraits of the labor movement to date, a story populated with the voices of school workers who are winning the fight for the soul of public education—and redrawing the political map of the country at large.


“Before 2018, strikes had become so rare in this country that hardly anyone knew what they were. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, they began. Not in left-wing cities but in the reddest of red states. Not of white men in factories but of teachers, many of them women, many of them of color. Eric Blanc spent months with the strikers, talking to them on picket lines, listening to them in meetings, sharing with them on Facebook threads, and more. Like Orwell in Barcelona, he’s given us a first-hand report from the front lines, making sense of the most improbable political story of an improbable decade. This is exhilarating reading about a movement that will be shaping politics for decades to come.”

“Eric Blanc has written the best on-the-ground description and explanation of the red state teachers’ revolt. He was there and he understands that what happened is historic. The brave teachers who walked out in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and other red states started a powerful trend. They give hope that the reactionary politics of the past forty years may be reversed by working people who realize that ‘enough is enough.’ Blanc’s enthralling description of their struggles is a chronicle that should be widely read.”

“Read this book to understand the many important lessons educators so powerfully taught about what it will take to rebuild a working-class movement, defeat Trumpism, and take on the billionaires.”

“The last places in today's America you would expect mass strikes would be the ultra-red states of West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona -- until tens of thousands of education workers there organized themselves and shut down the schools. Red State Revolt by Eric Blanc gives a unique inside view of how these actions were organized and how they forced state governments and rightwing politicians not only to raise teachers pay but to elevate the role of public education. If you want to understand the power of workers and the strike, even in a time when labor seems down if not out, read Red State Revolt.”

“Eric Blanc’s compelling new book, Red State Revolt, is a thoroughly researched and eloquently written story of one of the most powerful social movements of our time. His incisive reporting shows how teachers, through labor organizing and strategic strikes, are protecting and strengthening public education, the great equalizing force of any democratic society.”


More upcoming events

@ Red Emma's

Baltimore's Shawna Potter, singer for the band War On Women, has tackled sexism and harassment in lyrics and on stage for years. Taking the battle to music venues themselves, she has trained night clubs and community spaces in how to create safer environments for marginalized people. Now she’s turned decades of experience into a clear and concise guide for public spaces of all sorts—from art galleries to bagel shops to concert halls—that want to shut down harassers wherever they show up. The steps she outlines are realistic, practical, and actionable. With the addition of personal stories, case studies, sample policies, and no-nonsense advice like “How to Flirt without Being a Creep,” she shows why safer spaces are important, while making it easier to achieve them. Punk passion, candor, and anger get the job done!


A masterful narrative—with echoes of Evicted and The Color of Law—that brings to life the structures, policies, and beliefs that divide us.

Mark Lange and Nicole Smith have never met, but if they make the moves they are contemplating—Mark, a white suburbanite, to West Baltimore, and Nicole, a black woman from a poor city neighborhood, to a prosperous suburb—it will defy the way the Baltimore region has been programmed for a century. It is one region, but separate worlds. And it was designed to be that way.

In this deeply reported, revelatory story, duPont Award–winning journalist Lawrence Lanahan chronicles how the region became so highly segregated and why its fault lines persist today. Mark and Nicole personify the enormous disparities in access to safe housing, educational opportunities, and decent jobs. As they eventually pack up their lives and change places, bold advocates and activists—in the courts and in the streets—struggle to figure out what it will take to save our cities and communities: Put money into poor, segregated neighborhoods? Make it possible for families to move into areas with more opportunity?

The Lines Between Us is a riveting narrative that compels reflection on America’s entrenched inequality—and on where the rubber meets the road not in the abstract, but in our own backyards. Taking readers from church sermons to community meetings to public hearings to protests to the Supreme Court to the death of Freddie Gray, Lanahan deftly exposes the intricacy of Baltimore’s hypersegregation through the stories of ordinary people living it, shaping it, and fighting it, day in and day out.

This eye-opening account of how a city creates its black and white places, its rich and poor spaces, reveals that these problems are not intractable; but they are designed to endure until each of us—despite living in separate worlds—understands we have something at stake.

@ Red Emma's
Stop by the bar at Red Emma's to enjoy alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink specials, make some new friends, try some delicious vegan eats, and relax on the patio! 
@ Red Emma's

After centuries of colonial domination and a twentieth century riddled with dictatorships, indigenous peoples in Bolivia embarked upon a social and political struggle that would change the country forever. As part of that project activists took control of their own history, starting in the 1960s by reaching back to oral traditions and then forward to new forms of print and broadcast media. This book tells the fascinating story of how indigenous Bolivians  recovered  and popularized  histories of past rebellions, political models, and leaders, using them to build movements for rights, land, autonomy, and political power. Drawing from rich archival sources and the author’s lively interviews with indigenous leaders and activist-historians, The Five Hundred Year Rebellion describes how movements tapped into centuries-old veins of oral history and memory to produce manifestos, booklets, and radio programs on histories of resistance, wielding them as tools to expand their struggles and radically transform society.

Benjamin Dangl has a PhD in Latin American history from McGill University and has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America for over fifteen years, covering politics and protest movements for outlets such as The GuardianAl JazeeraThe NationSalonVice, and NACLA Report on the Americas. He is the author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia and Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, both published by AK Press. Dangl edits TowardFreedom.org, a progressive perspective on world events, and teaches at Champlain College.

@ Red Emma's

Five years ago, in June of 2014, 10 months before the Uprising, D. Watkins was still on the come up, a freelance essay writer grinding towards success. His viral essay "Too Poor for Pop Culture" had dropped earlier in 2014, putting him on the map for a local and national audience for the first time. Red Emma's had the honor to partner with D. on his first print publication, a zine version of this essay and a few others.  At the time, we wrote that "D. Watkins' essays for Salon and elsewhere, chronicling the struggles and hustles of Black Baltimore and his own trajectory from street dealer to creative writer, are no doubt the first shots fired by a major literary talent in the making." Turns out this was a fair assessment. With his third book in five years out, writing in the New York Times, and a high-profile gig as a regular Salon columnist and videomaker, D. is a voice to be reckoned with, and one who has studiously made a point of using his success to lift up new rising voices from Baltimore's streets. To mark the fifth anniversary of his first print publication, D.'s coming to Red Emma's for a conversation with the essential Lisa Snowden-McCray of the Baltimore Beat for a conversation about what's changed, what remains to change, and how his new book We Speak for Ourselves fits into this picture.

In "Department Stores and the Black Freedom Movement: Workers, Consumers, and Civil Rights from the 1930s to the 1980s," Traci Parker examines the movement to racially integrate white-collar work and consumption in American department stores, and broadens our understanding of historical transformations in African American class and labor formation. Built on the goals, organization, and momentum of earlier struggles for justice, the department store movement channeled the power of store workers and consumers to promote black freedom in the mid-twentieth century. Sponsoring lunch counter sit-ins and protests in the 1950s and 1960s, and challenging discrimination in the courts in the 1970s, this movement ended in the early 1980s with the conclusion of the Sears, Roebuck, and Co. affirmative action cases and the transformation and consolidation of American department stores. In documenting the experiences of African American workers and consumers during this era—including in Baltimore City—Parker highlights the department store as a key site for the inception of a modern black middle class, and demonstrates the ways that both work and consumption were battlegrounds for civil rights.


In 1911, leading English suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst visited America. Unlike other suffragette leaders, who spent their time in America among the social elite, Pankhurst wasted no time getting right to the heart of America’s social problems. She visited striking laundry workers in New York and female prisoners in Philadelphia and Chicago, and she grappled firsthand with shocking racism in Nashville.


This book gathers Pankhurst’s writings from the year-long visit, in which she reveals her shock at the darkness hidden in American life, and draws parallels to her experiences of imprisonment and misogyny in her own country. Never before published, these writings mark an important stage in the development of the suffragette's thought, which she brought back to Britain to inform the burgeoning suffrage campaign there.

America’s suburbs are not the homogenous places we sometimes take them for. Today’s suburbs are racially, ethnically, and economically diverse, with as many Democratic as Republican voters, a growing population of renters, and rising poverty. The cliche of white picket fences is well past its expiration date.

The history of suburbia is equally surprising: American suburbs were once fertile ground for utopian planning, communal living, socially-conscious design, and integrated housing. We have forgotten that we built suburbs like these, such as the co-housing commune of Old Economy, Pennsylvania; a tiny-house anarchist community in Piscataway, New Jersey; a government-planned garden city in Greenbelt, Maryland; a racially integrated subdivision (before the Fair Housing Act) in Trevose, Pennsylvania; experimental Modernist enclaves in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the mixed-use, architecturally daring Reston, Virginia.

Inside Radical Suburbs you will find blueprints for affordable, walkable, and integrated communities, filled with a range of environmentally sound residential options. Radical Suburbs is a history that will help us remake the future and rethink our assumptions of suburbia.

@ Red Emma's
Single payer healthcare is not complicated: the government pays for all care for all people. It’s cheaper than our current model, and most Americans (and their doctors) already want it. So what’s the deal with our current healthcare system, and why don’t we have something better?

In Health Justice Now, Timothy Faust explains what single payer is, why we don’t yet have it, and how it can be won. He identifies the actors that have misled us for profit and political gain, dispels the myth that healthcare needs to be personally expensive, shows how we can smoothly transition to a new model, and reveals the slate of humane and progressive reforms that we can only achieve with single payer as the springboard.

In this impassioned playbook, Faust inspires us to believe in a world where we could leave our job without losing healthcare for ourselves and our kids; where affordable housing is healthcare; and where social justice links arm-in-arm with health justice for us all. Single payer is the tool—health justice is the goal!

TIMOTHY FAUST‘s writing has appeared in Splinter, Jacobin, and Vice, among others. He has worked as a data scientist in the healthcare industry, before which he enrolled people in ACA programs in Florida, Georgia, and Texas, where he saw both the shortcomings of the ACA and the consequences of the Medicaid gap firsthand. Since 2017, he’s been driving around the United States in his 2002 Honda CR-V talking to people about health inequity in their neighborhoods. He lives in Brooklyn.

Join us as we celebrate the release of an essential new anthology on the political and racial economy of urban life in Baltimore. Full details TBA, but save this date now!

Nicknamed both “Mobtown” and “Charm City” and located on the border of the North and South, Baltimore is a city of contradictions. From media depictions in The Wire to the real-life trial of police officers for the murder of Freddie Gray, Baltimore has become a quintessential example of a struggling American city. Yet the truth about Baltimore is far more complicated—and more fascinating.
 
To help untangle these apparent paradoxes, the editors of Baltimore Revisited: Stories of Inequality and Resistance in a US City have assembled a collection of over thirty experts from inside and outside academia. Together, they reveal that Baltimore has been ground zero for a slew of neoliberal policies, a place where inequality has increased as corporate interests have eagerly privatized public goods and services to maximize profits. But they also uncover how community members resist and reveal a long tradition of Baltimoreans who have fought for social justice.
 
The essays in this collection take readers on a tour through the city’s diverse neighborhoods, from the Lumbee Indian community in East Baltimore to the crusade for environmental justice in South Baltimore. Baltimore Revisited examines the city’s past, reflects upon the city’s present, and envisions the city’s future.