In this article, Jon Shelton uses a two-month-long teacher strike in Pittsburgh as a case study to trace the trajectory of the conservative turn in American politics during the 1970s. Immediately coming on the heels of the New York City fiscal crisis in 1975, the Pittsburgh strike raised concerns regarding the city's fiscal position and its ability to control its labor force. When the strike began, many criticized the teachers for walking off the job but still supported the teachers' goals, arguing that adequate teacher salaries were vital, particularly following a year of double-digit inflation. As the strike continued and the union leaders' actions were criminalized, however, the public came to believe that teachers had abrogated their duties as inculcators of moral values. Though Pennsylvania had passed the most far-reaching public-sector labor law in 1970, the Pittsburgh strike catalyzed the governor to form a new commission with the potential to roll back the gains of the law. Shelton uses records of this commission to show how the basic political assumptions in Pennsylvania about the role of the state and the importance of labor unions to the democratic process shifted immensely during the course of the 1970s.
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Jon Shelton; Against the Public: The Pittsburgh Teachers Strike of 1975 – 1976 and the Crisis of the Labor-Liberal Coalition. Labor 1 May 2013; 10 (2): 55–75. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-2071697
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