An aggressive new public school teacher-based political movement, with radical policy goals and socialist backing, is helping organized labor conduct educators’ strikes in battleground states that President Donald Trump needs to win in 2020 to stay in office.
Protesters who are part of the #RedForEd movement are demanding, among other things, teacher salary increases, smaller classroom sizes, and an end to taxpayer support for charter schools and private school vouchers.
The #RedForEd movement was a major player in what left-wing activist Lois Weiner, an education professor at New Jersey City University and director of its Urban Education and Teacher Unionism Policy Project, called “education spring” in the socialist magazine New Politics.
In February 2018, teachers launched labor actions in Virginia and West Virginia. In April 2018, they followed suit in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. In May 2018, North Carolina was hit.
“Like the Arab Spring” of 2011, the U.S. “education spring” last year “was an explosive wave of protests,” Weiner wrote. “State-wide teacher walkouts seemed to arise out of nowhere, organized in Facebook groups, with demands for increased school funding and political voice for teachers.”
In the far-left Jacobin magazine, Weiner wrote in January that the “energy of the ‘Red for Ed’ teacher walkouts last spring in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and elsewhere was channeled into electoral activity by both the AFT [American Federation of Teachers] and NEA [National Education Association], with an unrelenting refrain that achieving the demands that had led angry teachers in those states to strike could only be made by electing friendly politicians.”
Matt Patterson, executive director of Free California, a new Los Angeles-based nonprofit that helps Golden State conservatives organize and counter-organize, said Big Labor is putting big resources into promoting the #RedForEd movement.
“#RedForEd is part of a national strategy by union leadership to counter the effects of last year’s Janus v. AFSCME decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, which ended their ability to forcibly extract dues and fees from non-members in the public sector. To offset those financial losses, union leaders have responded by aggressively organizing new workplaces, jacking up dues on existing members, and, as in #RedForEd, launching and threatening strikes to extract greater concessions from school districts.
“And it seems to be working: Public-sector unions have lost a minuscule number of members since Janus. In fact, in some states, they have actually grown in membership and money.”
‘A New Political Power’
According to Labor Notes, the #RedForEd movement is the brainchild of Noah Karvelis, 24, a Marxist and music teacher in Littleton, Arizona, who focuses on hip-hop and praises the violent Black Lives Matter movement. Karvelis has volunteered for and given money to the Bernie Sanders campaign, Michael Patrick Leahy wrote at Breitbart News.
“We put Red for Ed day on Twitter,” Rebecca Garelli, a math and science teacher in Phoenix, wrote on the Labor Notes website in March 2018.
“We had an event set up on Facebook. I put it on my personal page because I’m friends with everybody I work with. We spread the word on social media. People got it—people showed up in their red shirts. They were taking pictures, showing: ‘here’s my school,’ ‘here’s my school.’ That got people really fired up. And that got people motivated to join the next action— ‘Why I’m Red for Ed’ —on Friday of that same week.”
In Karvelis’s adopted home state, #RedForEd inspired a planned March 15 school walkout to demand action on the so-called climate crisis. High school students in Phoenix will demonstrate in favor of the astronomically expensive, ultra-radical “Green New Deal,” a freeze on new fossil fuel infrastructure, and a switch to 100-percent renewable energy by 2030.
Student Aditi Narayanan, 16, said rallies at the Arizona Capitol last year to support the #RedForEd teacher walkout and the March for Our Lives protest spurred a group of students, including herself, to activism. Students plan to register voters at the March 15 event, she said, as reported by the Phoenix New Times.
#RedForEd leader Karvelis makes no effort to conceal his left-wing radicalism.
Karvelis addressed the Socialism 2018 conference organized by a Trotskyist group called the International Socialist Organization in Chicago in July 2018.
“We’ve created an organization now. We have a network of 2,000 leaders who are experienced. They’ve been out on a job action. They’ve organized their campuses. They’ve collected signatures for a ballot initiative,” Karvelis told an estimated 1,800 socialists from across the United States.
“We’ve built a new political power in Arizona and it’s taking control, right now, of the future of the state,” Karvelis said. “We have to build our own political power. We have to build our own organization. We have to stay true to our values. They have to be Democratic.”
Karvelis wrote an article for Progressive Times that was published in February, titled “From Marx to Trump: Labor’s Role in Revolution.”
“Without the empowerment of the working class and of organized labor, any revolution is destined from the outset for failure. In these early days of the Trump Era, we must continue our fight and bolster the working class as we strive towards a progressive political revolution. By doing so, we will move our revolution ever closer to imminent success,” Karvelis wrote.
No Longer Taboo
The socialism that Karvelis and other leaders of #RedForEd support has been in the news lately.
As presidential candidate and self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) grimaced, the president denounced socialism Feb. 5 in the State of the Union address.
“Socialist policies have turned once-wealthy Venezuela into a state of abject poverty and despair,” Trump said. In the United States, “we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country.”
“America was founded on liberty and independence—not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.”
But “socialism” is apparently no longer the dirty word it used to be in America.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, Americans seem to have become more accepting of socialism. As Obama’s first term began, Newsweek ran a cover blaring, “We are all socialists now.” This was an exaggeration, but the point was made that the topic was no longer taboo. Recent polling shows that significant percentages of Democrats and millennials support socialist ideas.
So it’s not all that surprising that socialists are coming out of the proverbial woodwork to support #RedForEd.
To give just one example, in Oakland, California, the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, the nation’s largest Marxist group, is participating in the ongoing public school teachers’ strike there by sending manpower.
“Good morning! On Oakland teacher strike day four, DSA flying squadrons #7 and #9 have joined with teachers and students at Lakeview and Frick respectively! #Unite4Oaklandkids #RedForEd[,]” the East Bay DSA wrote in a tweet Feb. 26.