Across the United States and throughout history, teachers have banded together to strike to have their demands met. The strike may be about low pay, safety, or health, but no matter what, strikes have been a well-known group strategy in many different industries. So, why can’t Texas teachers strike?
Teachers in Texas can’t strike because the state law doesn’t allow it. If they strike they will lose some of their rights and privileges and might be fired.
In this guide, we’ll break down the Texas state laws regarding teacher strikes, how they affect teachers and the reactions from teachers in the state. We will also answer many common questions people have regarding teacher strikes in Texas.
Why Can’t Texas Teachers Strike?
A Texas state law, specifically Title 6, Subtitle A, Chapter 617 of the Texas Government Code, prevents public employees from participating in a strike or any other “organized work stoppage.”
If a teacher were to strike or participate in any organized work stoppage in the state of Texas, the law states the individual will lose:
- Civil service rights
- Reemployment rights
- Any other rights, benefits, or privileges they enjoy as a public employee
Losing these rights, benefits, and privileges could mean having their teaching license suspended or revoked, and their access to the Teacher Retirement System could be denied.
What Can Texas Teachers Do?
Some teachers in Texas have voiced their opinions on the Texas law preventing strikes, many saying the law prevents teachers from being able to voice their opinions or protest for themselves.
The Texas state law preventing teacher strikes is vague, and the main issue is that a lack of court decisions on the matter means no one knows what counts as “organized work stoppage.”
In other states where teacher strikes are against the law, teachers have found ways around the law, such as teachers in Kentucky who used sick days to organize a faux strike. Some Texas teachers have considered trying similar methods, but the risk is too high for many.
Reasons Teachers Strike
Many issues have inspired strikes and other labor movements for teachers, such as health, safety, and pay issues.
As the threat of COVID emerged in 2020, health became a serious issue on the minds of many teachers. At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the majority of schools in the United States were closed, and learning switched to online.
However, as COVID numbers dropped, schools began reopening, and the CDC recognized an increase in transmission as schools became outbreak centers in some cases.
When schools returned to in-person teaching, many teachers organized strikes against the health risks the reopening posed.
Some education leaders have organized protests over the lack of restrictions on guns that they say have put teachers and students in greater danger.
There have been many student walkouts over the issue of guns and mass shootings, but teachers in many states have been reluctant to join their students due to laws like the one in Texas or the risk of facing retaliation for their participation.
Many teachers have participated in strikes over low pay and a lack of benefits. The strike has often been a powerful negotiating tool for teachers, with many strikes ending successfully with the administration and/or government agreeing to the demands of teachers.
Texas Teacher Strike FAQs
Here are some common questions people have regarding Texas teachers and striking.
In which state is it illegal for teachers to strike?
Many states have made striking teachers illegal. The states which have laws that explicitly state that teachers cannot engage in collective bargaining or striking are Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
The states that explicitly state that striking as teachers is a legal activity are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.
Can you get fired for striking in Texas?
For employees in the private sector, striking is a legally protected activity. You must be participating in a “protected strike” (meaning it falls under the guidelines) for it to be a legal right.
Teachers are considered public employees, which is why their right to strike or collective bargaining is not legally protected. Teachers can be fired for striking in Texas.
Does Texas allow unions?
Unions are legal in Texas. Teacher’s unions are somewhat legal in Texas. The primary characteristics of unions in most states are the ability to negotiate, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, and the ability to create contracts. None of these characteristics are legal for teachers in the state of Texas.
Two organizations in Texas claim themselves as Teacher’s Unions, though they do not have the power to strike or negotiate.
Why are unions illegal in Texas?
Unions are not illegal in Texas, but Texas is what is known as a “right-to-work” state. The ability to form or join a union is a right protected by the National Labor Relations Act across the United States.
A right-to-work state is a state that makes it illegal to deny someone employment because they do not join a union. The National Labor Relations Act only applies to jobs in the private sector, and the state controls the laws surrounding labor in the public sector. Texas has made it illegal to strike or engage in collective bargaining in the public sector, not the private sector.
Can teachers join a union in Texas?
Teachers are allowed to form or join a union in the state of Texas, but those unions are not allowed to do some things. Most unions are defined by their ability to negotiate contracts, organize strikes, and engage in collective bargaining. For unions in Texas, these are all illegal activities for teachers.
So teachers can join a union and are legally protected from their employer firing them for joining or forming a union. But the union is not allowed to organize strikes or any organized work stoppage or engage in collective bargaining.
Unions in the private sector in Texas have the right to engage in these activities.