Keeping It in the Family: On Sarah Jaffe’s “Work Won’t Love You Back” at LA Review of Books

Maggie Levantovskaya reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back at the Los Angeles Review of Books and it’s so lovely, I’m crying over here.

She writes:

While the rhetoric of work-as-love generally operates against workers, it can also be strategically reclaimed for organizing purposes, as can be seen in her case study of public school teachers. As Jaffe explains, they’re “the ultimate laborers of love.” They’re also less likely to switch careers for better compensation, which only fuels the narrative that sacrifice is a necessary part of teaching and that discussions of material needs only sully the profession. When it comes to public conversations about teaching and pay, the either/or fallacy is strong, under the auspices that teachers are either “in it for the money” or for the love of the students. This ethos is perhaps best embodied in a now notorious meme: “Teachers don’t teach for the income. Teachers teach for the outcome.” Jaffe, whose focus on struggle is always about both hardship and resistance, dedicates ample space to demonstrating that, starting with the 2012 Chicago teacher strikes, unions flipped the narrative by appealing to teachers’ ties to local communities and their roles as caretakers. When unions used the slogan “Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions” in strikes across the US, they suggested that taking material care of teachers was indispensable to educating and caring for students. When in 2019, the Los Angeles teachers’ strike resulted in a new contract, they got the district to not only give them a six percent raise but also to “lower class sizes, put a nurse in every school, reduce standardized testing by 50 percent, hire more counselors, invest in more green space on campus, [and] cut back on random searches.” It’s difficult to imagine such a victory without both the power of collective bargaining and the sway of teachers’ image as laborers of love.

Read the whole thing at LARB

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