Graduation Date

Fall 12-18-2020

Grading Professor

Daryl Khan

Subject Concentration

Urban Reporting

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


At the start of the 2020 school year, a lack of covid safety plans led teachers like Rosy Clark to protest, urging her union the United Federation of Teachers to act. She and other progressives in the dissident caucus, Movement of Rank and File Educators, were willing to strike to ensure their safety. Union leadership hesitated largely because public union strikes are illegal under the state’s Taylor Law.

This four-part audio documentary looks at the history of the UFT and this contentious state law. The union began striking under more onerous strike prohibition legislation. Its roots are steeped in radical and militant action fighting the city and state for everything from arbitration rights and basic fair treatment to lofty education reforms leading to a reckoning with the racist reality of public schools.

Taylor Law has changed over time, sometimes in the favor of labor, sometimes in the favor or government and taxpayers. It’s been dialed in to create a chilling effect on public unions like the UFT to the point where they barely discuss strikes seriously. There are consistent but ineffective efforts to amend Taylor Law in the interest of labor. Perhaps most notably was Cynthia Nixon’s run for governor against Andrew Cuomo. These efforts haven’t led to much legislative change, but teacher activists like Rosy Clark say they’ll continue fighting for education reform regardless of the law.

Voices include current educators like Clark, educators turned labor leaders like the James Eterno, formerly of the UFT and Marc Kagan, formerly of the TWU. Also, educators turned policy experts like Shanker Institute Executive Director Leo Casey and labor skeptic policy analysts like Empire Center’s Ken Girardin.



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