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Teachers challenge the nation's toughest union ban

North Carolina and South Carolina are home to the most restrictive public sector collective bargaining laws in the country. In fact, they’re the only two states that ban all government employees from unionizing. And that doesn’t show signs of changing anytime soon. But a group of educators in Durham, North Carolina isn’t letting that stop them from fighting for a seat at the table.

This week on the Broadside, we ask what it means to call yourself a union in a state where striking and collective bargaining are both illegal—and what that says about the history of labor organizing in the South.


  • Liz Schlemmer, Education Reporter at WUNC-North Carolina Public Radio


  • Check out Liz’s recent reporting on the history of unions in the South and her coverage of recent labor organizing efforts among teachers in Durham, NC.
  • You can find a transcript of the episode here.
Anisa Khalifa is an award-winning podcast producer and host at WUNC. She grew up in a public radio household, and fell in love with podcasts shortly before her friends convinced her to start one with them about Korean dramas. Since joining WUNC in 2021, Anisa has produced Me and My Muslim Friends, CREEP, Tested and Dating While Gray, and is the host of WUNC's weekly podcast The Broadside.
Charlie Shelton-Ormond is a podcast producer for WUNC.
Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
Jerad Walker is WUNC’s editor of narrative audio and podcasts. He joined the station in 2022 after nearly a decade at Oregon Public Broadcasting.
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