The four great strikes of Yonkers teachers: An historical analysis of conflict and change in urban education

Marie-Elena Rita Liotta, Fordham University


This study compares and analyzes the 4 strikes in Yonkers, New York in order to learn the causes, issues, pressures, resolutions, and long- and short-term effects of each. Documented narratives of each strike are presented with a careful examination of the events that led to each strike and the actions of key groups and persons. It also provides a backdrop to the development and evolution of teacher unionism as compared to the generational theory of Charles Kerchner and Douglas Mitchell. The study brings together the literature on teachers' strikes. It contains an account of the rise of teacher unionism and bilateral collective bargaining as a process of joint governance. The history of the rise of teacher militancy and its resultant strike activity is detailed. Given the topic of this longitudinal research, a combination of case study and historical research methodology was used to analyze several phenomena unique to each strike. The case study methodology was used in the collection of data, while historical analysis was utilized in the preparation of a documented account of each strike. The empirical data collected for this study include a collection of participants, documents, newspaper accounts, and open-ended interviews with selected participants from the educational as well as the political arena. The study found that the multidimensional causes that ignited the 4 strikes in Yonkers included strong stable union leadership, the leadership style of the superintendents, the expiration of contracts, and the extensive deprivation of wages. The issues of salary, class size, job security, and educational policy making led teachers to the ultimate act of militancy and legitimatized the role of the union as protector of teachers. The study found that the causes followed, indeed, the Kerchner-Mitchell model with the early strikes relating to the transition of meet and confer to collective bargaining, and ultimately to involvement in shaping educational policy. The study concluded that those who have legitimate demands can and will mobilize to secure what they want. To be cognizant of the cast of characters serves to deepen the understanding of the complex forces in action before, during, and after strikes is critical. Recommendations include more studies of strikes and their relationship to the local conditions in each educational environment to develop a better awareness of interest groups, their potential power, and their interactions with each other.

Subject Area

School administration|Education history|Labor relations

Recommended Citation

Liotta, Marie-Elena Rita, "The four great strikes of Yonkers teachers: An historical analysis of conflict and change in urban education" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3056145.