Activism by the Numbers: Arizona Teachers Strike Edition
Last month, Arizona teachers went on strike. Under intense political pressure as a result of the seven-day walkout, Arizona lawmakers passed a new budget that provided raises to teachers and increased spending on schools. During this period, Arizonans sent thousands of messages via Resistbot to Governor Doug Ducey, imploring he accept the teachers demands.
We analyzed Resistbot data (anonymized to protect user privacy) from April 19–when teachers voted to strike the following week–to May 3 when the strike ended, and found that Arizonans wrote 3,962 letters to their elected officials during this time period.
In fact, on April 27–one day after the strike started–Arizonans accounted for 40% of all Resistbot messages written that day. Throughout the course of the strike, 28% of all Resistbot messages sent to elected officials were written by Arizonans. This is even more impressive when you compare Arizona’s numbers against the three most populous states in the country: California, Texas, and Florida. In the same timeframe, only California comes close, with 8% of messages originating from the Golden State.
We saw similar patterns of Resistbot usage in March, during the West Virginia teachers strike. According to the The Phoenix New Times, West Virginia and Oklahoma served as an inspiration to Arizona’s teachers:
When evaluating the strike, it’s important to note that Arizona teachers were directly inspired by the teacher walkouts in West Virginia and Oklahoma, both states where teachers won raises from reluctant lawmakers. Although West Virginia has a gritty history of labor activism due to strikes that took place in the mining industry, teacher unions are relatively weak in all three states.
“It seemed to come out of nowhere, and what’s interesting is there seems to be clear momentum from state to state,” said Jon Shelton, an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the author of the 2017 book, Teacher Strike! Public Education and the Making of a New American Political Order.
“I think what Arizona teachers saw in West Virginia and especially in Oklahoma is that these strikes won,” Shelton said. “They were able to get substantial salary increases.”
Below are a few letters sent to Gov. Ducey, shared by Resistbot users in Arizona, during the teachers strike.
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