Do Teacher Strikes Make Parents Pro- or Anti-Labor? The Effects of Labor Unrest on Mass Attitudes

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102919 - WP – Teacher Strikes - Hertel-Fernandez Naidu and Reich

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Columbia University
Suresh Naidu, Columbia University
Adam Reich, Columbia University


Strikes are a central tool of organized labor, yet existing research has focused on the economic consequences of strikes, rather than their political effects. We examine how labor actions by teachers, a well-organized group of public-sector workers, changes mass attitudes about the strikes and the labor movement more generally. Our context involves large-scale teacher strikes and walkouts in six states in 2018. Using an original survey in the affected states, we study the causal effect of strike exposure among parents whose children’s ages place them in or out of school. Firsthand strike exposure increased parents’ support for the teachers and for the labor movement, as well as parents’ interest in labor action (though not necessarily through traditional unions). We next examine the mechanisms for these strike effects, identifying the role of political education of parents by teachers. Our results underscore the importance of strikes as a political strategy for unions.


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