Wednesday, March 07, 2018


The West Virginia strike is over. The teachers and government employees clearly won. Workers that are unified and refuse to yield are usually in good shape in terms of having many of their demands met.

The West Virginia teachers got their 5% raise signed into law and by staying out an additional week, all government employees in the state will also get 5% increases.

In addition, a number of other anti-worker bills were not passed by the Republican controlled State Legislature.

This is from Portside:

On Tuesday afternoon, a deal to give all public employees in the state of West Virginia a 5 percent pay raise was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor.
A struggle that mobilized tens of thousands of workers, won widespread popular support, and was led by rank-and-file leaders, ended in a tangible victory. Confusion arose, however, as reports indicated that Republican state politicians wanted to offset the increase with cuts to social services. But though the Republicans are threatening to pay for this in part through cutting essential services, the bill itself is not tied to any such cuts.
To assess the tentative strike settlement, Jacobin’s Eric Blanc sat down with Emily Comer and Jay O’Neal — teachers and union activists in Charleston, West Virginia.

How did you hear the news about the deal?
I woke up this morning to a call from my dad that said “Emily, this shit’s big. I listened to Hoppy Kercheval [an influential conservative talk radio host] on my way to work this morning. Hoppy’s on your side. He’s saying that the Senate needs to give in so that the kids can go back to school. If Hoppy’s turned, then the Senate is going to turn.” So I woke up feeling excited and hopeful.
I was at the capitol. Around 9:45 in the morning I started getting texts from people saying that they heard on the radio that there’s some kind of press conference at ten o’ clock and that a deal had been made. Of course, I was originally skeptical. Then a Republican House delegate came up to me and said, “I worked really hard on this. And I think you’ll be happy.” But she wouldn’t tell me how much the deal was for. I said: “I hope we’re happy.”
So I went up to the crowd in front of the Senate to ask people what was going on. And all of a sudden I get a text from a teacher at my school that said: “5 percent for everyone!” Suddenly I heard cheering. I look up and see that the governor, who is a big man, was now standing in the middle of this huge crowd of teachers announcing a 5 percent raise for all public employees.
How do strikers generally feel about the deal?
Thrilled. We’re overwhelmed with emotion. I have broken down sobbing more times than I can count today. There’s probably video footage of me bawling while I’m surrounded by coworkers singing “Country Roads.” There’s almost a sense of disbelief, because for about a solid week there, we were really in unfamiliar territory. We didn’t know what was going to happen.
After watching the conference committee last night, I didn’t wake up feeling positive about anything. I was worried the bill was actually going to get kicked back down to the 2 percent. And so now I’m excited, I’m thrilled, I feel like my life won’t ever be the same again. It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not. Going back to the classroom won’t be the same now.
And what a lot of people have already forgotten is how much we have already won. Even before the walkouts began, in his hope to avoid a strike, the governor dropped his push for catastrophic changes to PEIA, such as the total family income requirement and the Go365 wellness program. The government was forced to keep the PEIA insurance premiums and deductibles at their current level. Also, because of the strike, we were able to ensure that a lot of bad education bills weren’t able to get passed. The charter school bill didn’t go anywhere, and additional anti-union bills like “payroll protection” all were dropped.
What do you think brought about this victory?

The first thing I would say is that West Virginians came together en masse and held each other up. My colleagues and I leaned on each other heavily — emotionally, for quick information, for everything. Our communities leaned on each other to feed kids, to provide childcare. Parents were patient and understanding, and that’s been a remarkable thing. The most amazing part of this struggle has been the real sense of community across West Virginia.
Further down in the article is a lesson for us all from the WVA teachers:
For a successful mass movement, people don’t have to agree on partisan politics, on religion, or anything else for that matter. But they do have to come together and fight in solidarity around a shared issue. We’ve learned that people will push the other differences aside in the name of solidarity.
That is the lesson of West Virginia. May we learn it.


Anonymous said...

This is NYC. No strike. The whippings will continue as scheduled.

Jr said...

School is open tomorrow, from our friendly, liberal mayor, who we supported, after he gave us the worst contract in union history.

Anonymous said...

Strikes are contagious. NYC teachers and all under the UFT umbrella will stand together if need be.

James Eterno said...

It's gotta be bottom up or it goes nowhere in NYC.

Anonymous said...

Bullshit. NYC teachers will never strike. Maybe a wildcat strike under the umbrella of a smaller caucus, but Unity will never go for it. Let's see who has the sand to pull it off. Next contract will be the straw that might break the camels back.