Why You Should Care About the Outcome of the West Virginia Teacher’s Strike
Starting last week, teachers throughout the entire state of West Virginia went on strike until they were finally able to get a promise of a 5 percent raise from state lawmakers. Even if you don’t live in the state, you should still care genuinely about the outcome of this teacher’s strike.
The thing that makes this strike so interesting is that West Virginia is a right to work state. Living in a right-to-work state myself, I can tell you that it is just about the worst situation for someone in the working class could be in. Don’t be fooled by the innocuous sounding term “right to work”either. The law bans unions from forming security agreements with companies, which makes it pretty much impossible to unionize. Unions aren’t illegal, but they might as well be if you get the picture. As such, employees have virtually no rights. What makes this strike even more interesting is that West Virginia is also known as the birthplace of America’s labor movement. Unfortunately, the state passed a right to work law after Republicans wiped the floor with the Democrats in the 2014 midterms. If the Republican goal of passing a federal right to work bill passed, then unions as we know it would be over. They would effectively be outlawed. As leftists, one of our top priorities should be preventing this from happening.
Statewide teacher strikes are also incredibly rare. The first and only statewide teachers strike was when the Florida Education Association went on strike in 1968. That particular strike lasted up to three months in some areas of the state. The strike was unsuccessful but still served as a prominent landmark in labor history. That is, until now.
On Tuesday West Virginia governor Jim Justice (yes, that’s his real name) finally caved to the teachers union after nine days, and signed a bill allowing them a five percent pay raise. This is momentous news. The outcome of this strike shows that when we apply pressure to the establishment, we can win. Others are already following suit. The Oklahoma Education Association is already planning to go on strike if their demands are not met by their deadline of April 23rd.
The success of the West Virginia teacher’s strike holds immense possibilities for not even just teachers’ unions, but others across the country as well. Now is the time for other unions to act in solidarity with West Virginia and Oklahoma. If we all work together, there will be no stopping us!