The Right Struggles With Its Teacher Strike Spin

The recent school employee strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and  Arizona have invigorated progressives and increased the blue wave nightmares of the right. But Republicans have a problem: how to give in to their union-hating urges while teachers working three jobs have generated so much public support?

Not a peep on the Mackinac Center website about these job actions. But a comment from staffer Vincent Vernuccio, buried on the American Family News Network website (“presenting the day’s stories from a biblical perspective”), provides an inventive spin:

“…teacher strikes … are bubbling up because teachers feel their unions are not getting them what they want …”

This from a secretly-funded group that made neutering unions job one for the last 30 years. And the best they can come up with is the tortured logic that these are actually anti-union teacher strikes.

But this spin doesn’t stop him from putting forward a contradicting conspiracy theory that even though unions didn’t call the strikes, they called them in order to sway the Supreme Court’s deliberations in the Janus national Right to Work case. Writing in the conservative answer to the Washington Post, the Washington Examiner, Vernuccio says:

Could it be that this upheaval is a thinly veiled attempt to sway the court into accepting an argument made by a threatened union attorney during oral arguments?

It’s not at all clear what Vince means by this. It apparently has something to do with “protection money” paid by unwilling members: “agency fees are the costs employees have to pay to prevent unions from striking.”

Whatever. No doubt it’s tough to come up with an argument against teachers making less than gas station attendants.


Long-time Republican mega doner and current Secretary of Education Betsy Devos has a better idea: ignore all this and just talk about the kids.

“…we should all agree kids should not suffer for adult squabbles.”

She’s suggesting that working side jobs to pay the bills and teaching in shabby buildings with decomposing supplies doesn’t affect kids.

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Devos’ argument is not off-the-cuff; it’s textbook. Literally. It’s from the State Policy Network Messaging Guide: How to Talk About Teacher Strikes.

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The Guide advises its think tank members avoid sounding tone deaf, what with “dozens of videos and social media posts going viral from teachers about their second jobs, teachers having to rely on food pantries, classroom books that are falling apart, paper rationing, etc.”

Pretend none of this affects learning and just talk about the kids.

And don’t talk about school choice. After all, “teachers at choice-schools are often paid less than district school teachers.”

We’ve written before about the State Policy Network’s attempts to “defund and defang” public sector unions. The SPN is an association of right wing think tanks funded by the Devos family and staffed in part by the Mackinac Center, that helps franchise the movement and arm it in the fight to “deliver the mortal blow” against “government employee unions.”

Don’t feel comfortable attacking teachers? Attack the administrators and the bus drivers!

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