Networked Movements and Bureaucratic Unions: The Structure of the 2018 #RedForEd Teachers’ Strikes

Rebecca Tarlau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


How do digitally enabled movements of workers reshape, replace, or reinforce the role of unions? Based on a comparative case study of the 2018 #RedForEd teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona, this article argues that despite the hierarchical and bureaucratic character of statewide teachers’ unions, the infrastructure they provided to organize, connect, and legitimize teachers’ actions was critical for statewide strikes. Facebook provided a forum for teachers to express frustrations, scale participation, and in some cases, organize actions. However, the unions’ coordinating capacities were also central. These findings show how combining the mobilizing capacities of social media with existing movement infrastructure can facilitate collective action. In contrast to predictions of digitally enabled activism ushering in an era of “organizing without organizations,” these findings suggest that 21st-century labor movements must meld old and new organizational forms, and not discard the century-and-a-half accumulation of labor infrastructure won by previous generations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)833-863
Number of pages31
JournalILR Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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