The past 18 months have seen plenty of exaggerated punditry about Donald Trump’s base of working class support. It is true that some working people in areas badly hit by the decline of basic industries, and turned off by the pro-business and pro-war policies of the Democratic Party leadership, have voted for right-wing candidates. But the bedrock of Republican support remains the billionaires and corporations which reap huge benefits from Trump’s tax cuts, and pour vast sums into the Republican campaign machine.
Despite the Trump phenomenon, the basic class divide in U.S. society has not changed. The old labour song, “Who’s side are you on?” remains valid. For proof, just consider the nation-wide movement of teachers for decent salary and better working conditions.
Early signs of the teachers’ militancy came in urban centres like Chicago and Detroit, But this year’s surge of struggles began in so-called “red state” strongholds like West Virginia, where striking teachers won a 5 percent pay raise for state employees. From there, similar protests spread to other states which voted for Trump – Arizona, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, and then to Washington DC. Everywhere, they have broad public support, despite vicious attacks by Republican politicians.
Most U.S. teachers live on austerity salaries, while their pensions and health care are ruthlessly slashed, and they are more likely than other workers to hold a second job. Yes, teachers are part of the working class, using their power to fight for the working class communities where they live and teach. That includes demanding an end to the right-wing drive to cut taxes for the rich, at the expense of education, health care and pensions.
On May Day 2018, we salute the classroom teachers of the U.S., who are showing their sisters and brothers across North America how to fight for real, positive social change.