Ever since Feb. 22, 2018, the West Virginia teachers have been out on strike, protesting a measly pay increase and the state’s refusal to defray the costs of rising health care.
As some of the lowest paid teachers in the country (ranking 48th), these teachers are among the working poor, qualifying for food assistance and other forms of state aid.
With active support of students, parents, bus drivers, cooks, etc., they have shut down every school in the state, in all 55 counties of West Virginia. The teachers are holding strong despite the court’s threats of an injunction, the governor’s and legislature’s manipulations, and their union leaders’ ill-advised recommendations to go back to work on the basis of promises alone.
Like the Chicago Teachers Strike in 2012, this strike is sending out the message that teachers can fight in our own interests and the interests of our students, that workers have power if we would only use it, and that unions can refuse to accept the reactionary rhetoric of “shared sacrifice”.
In the spirit of rank and file activism, I urge MCCC members to organize solidarity actions on your campuses that will build support for this strike (as well as building awareness of our own fight right here in Massachusetts to win #EqualPay4EqualWork, better job security, and respectful working conditions for our adjunct members and to win improved salaries for our Day Unit members)!
Some suggestions for actions: A walkout and rally, an informational picket line, a letter of support to the W. Virginia Teachers’ Union.
If labor solidarity had been built for the striking air-traffic controllers after Ronald Reagan fired them all in 1981, we may have been able to successfully counter the sharp attacks on the working class over the last decades. Please take pictures of any actions you organize so we can publicize them far and wide. This is the way we will recharge and refocus the labor movement into one that truly protects the interests of workers.
Here in Massachusetts, MTA President Barbara Madeloni has shown us that “When We Fight, We Win.” Barbara Madeloni’s leadership has been instrumental in engaging members at the grassroots level, building coalitions with other unions and social justice groups, and demonstrating the power of union solidarity when we fight together. This power stopped the proliferation of charter schools to save public funding for public schools and to turn the tide in the recent GIC (Group Insurance Commission) unilateral decision to remove major insurance providers as member options.
We should be inspired by the bravery and dedication of the teachers in West Virginia to not give in to “promises” but to hold out for real improvements.