[Marxism] In West Virginia, the politicians fail and the teachers rise

Dennis Brasky dmozart1756 at gmail.com
Sun Mar 4 10:29:55 MST 2018

> In West Virginia, the Politicians Fail, and the Teachers Rise
> https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/03/opinion/west-virginia-
> teachers-strike.html
> Morgantown, W.Va. — The rolling hills of West Virginia, where I grew up,
> are home to some of my fondest memories. But time and time again, I’ve
> watched them serve as a backdrop to injustice and negligence by those who
> lead, often at the expense of a vulnerable population.
> This time, it’s our schoolchildren.
> At $45,622, West Virginia teachers are the 48th lowest earning
> <http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/2017_Rankings_and_Estimates_Report-FINAL-SECURED.pdf> in
> the nation, according to the National Education Association. The minimum
> salary is just over $32,000
> <http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=HB4145%20SUB.htm&yr=2018&sesstype=RS&billtype=B&houseorig=H&i=4145>.
> After months of tension over issues including salaries and health insurance
> costs, the state’s public schoolteachers went on strike Feb. 22.
> On Friday, our state legislators refused to take action on a bill that
> would, over time, give West Virginia teachers a proposed 5 percent raise,
> and so the statewide work stoppage continued for a seventh day
> <https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/us/west-virginia-teachers-strike.html>,
> with 250,000 students out from school as a result.
> Despite the loss in critical class time, the fight cannot end prematurely.
> As students remain at home, and families struggle to find alternative
> forms of child care, teachers have to trust that West Virginians will do
> what West Virginians do best; lean on each other.
> We’ve seen it happening already. Students turn to classmates to study for
> Advanced Placement exams. Neighbors offer up their homes as oases while
> parents are at work. But it will take more than an internal, neighborly
> effort to realize what the work stoppage is all about: long-term,
> systematic change.
> It’s easy to feel like West Virginia’s teachers are gaining national
> momentum when the state’s name has appeared in national headlines this
> week. But the coverage has merely scratched the surface of a complex issue
> that predates these school closings. It is rooted in a history of West
> Virginia politicians putting the interests of outsiders looking to make a
> quick buck off the state’s beautiful land before the needs of the people
> who live on it.
> We’ve seen it in flimsy safety and environmental regulations, which have
> resulted in the deaths of countless miners
> <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/08/us/08westvirginia.html?mtrref=www.google.com>,
> and in the chemical spills
> <https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/special_reports/kanawha-river-pollution-subject-of-tuesday-dep-hearing/article_ebcaeaca-7903-5d09-9fb2-fe5348fb276c.html>
>  that have plagued
> <http://wvpublic.org/term/elk-river-chemical-spill#stream/0> surrounding
> populations, leaving citizens without drinking water
> <https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/health/years-after-mchm-spill-concern-about-wv-drinking-water-remains/article_6258b8ae-b019-5e94-9a70-410144490a8f.html> and
> living on poisoned land
> <https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140116-chemical-valley-west-virginia-chemical-spill-coal/>.
> We’ve seen it in the opioid crisis
> <http://www.pulitzer.org/winners/eric-eyre>, too, where powerful drug
> companies made sure that pills were plenty
> <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/01/31/a-town-of-3200-was-flooded-with-21-million-pain-pills-as-addiction-crisis-worsened-lawmakers-say/?utm_term=.4f8b3c37bd9c>,
> but options for treatment continue to be scarce.
> And now we see it in education, where teachers, the single most valuable
> resource available to children in this state, and therefore the most
> powerful influence in guiding us toward a prosperous future, were presented
> with a health insurance plan that amounted to a pay cut, all while
> senators, who receive
> <https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d3wdn7/a-viral-video-revealed-big-energys-stranglehold-on-west-virginia-politics>
>  hefty checks
> <https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d3wdn7/a-viral-video-revealed-big-energys-stranglehold-on-west-virginia-politics> from
> gas and energy companies, could have funded education needs had they
> passed
> <https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/legislative_session/rejected-amendment-on-co-tenancy-bill-would-ve-given-money/article_4608a45f-eb57-552a-9593-f10a292a4f9b.html> a
> modest tax increase on these companies.
> This isn’t the first time West Virginia teachers have demonstrated
> statewide unity. In 1990, an 11-day work stoppage
> <https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/education/photos-west-virginia-s-first-teacher-s-strike-in-lasted/article_e9b71c49-265a-540d-b3b1-5bb333960909.html> over
> similar issues led to better wages, but the increase was temporary.
> That’s why when James C. Justice, our Republican governor, announced
> Tuesday that he had reached an agreement with union leaders and told
> teachers to go back to work, with nothing more than a good-faith handshake,
> those on the ground thought better of it.
> Despite top-down orders from their union leaders to return to classes,
> county by county, teachers got together. They met in public spaces and
> communicated diligently with their neighbors, and on Wednesday night, the
> teachers of all 55 counties made the decision, collectively, to extend the
> work stoppage on their own terms.
> They kept schools closed on Thursday and Friday, and say they will
> continue the strike until the Senate passes the proposed raise; 55 counties
> united, shouting “this time will be different.”
> “Over the course of Wednesday, you saw every single county in the state
> just clawing to get back together, and we did it,” said Kat Devlin, an
> English teacher at University High School in Morgantown. “This is the prime
> example of a grass-roots movement. It’s the teachers and the people on the
> ground making this happen.”
> This is about more than livable wages. It’s about haves and have-nots,
> it’s about workers’ dignity, and it’s going to set the bar for labor
> organizers everywhere.
> The teachers of West Virginia are leading the way with a conviction that
> should be a national example for challenging inequity.
> When they get back into their classrooms, hopefully sooner rather than
> later, they must talk to their students about how, under intense pressure,
> and with little more than the support they found in each other, they fought
> for what was right, and they were heard.
>                                     Lauren Peace (@LaurenMPeace
> <https://twitter.com/laurenmpeace>) is a reporter at the Democrat and
> Chronicle in Rochester.

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