Mar 5, 2018
More than 20,000 West Virginia public school teachers and 13,000 additional school employees walked out on strike beginning on Thursday, February 22. Their strike has resulted in all the public schools in 55 counties being closed.
Each day of the strike, bus drivers, cooks and teachers have massed at the State Capitol in the thousands. This has allowed them to measure their forces and strengthen their resolve.
In West Virginia, pay and benefits for school employees must be decided by the governor and the legislature. It is a state where public workers lack collective bargaining rights. Workers aim to pressure the politicians to address fast rising health care costs and they want raises after their pay has been stagnant since 2014.
The strike started over a “raise” that would have left them further behind once healthcare costs were factored in. Teachers say they are fighting for themselves, but also for all state employees who suffer under the same underfunded healthcare system.
A tentative “back-to-work” agreement was reached between the governor and the three school unions on February 27. But because workers had been lied to before, strikers decided that the “deal” was too vague. They suspected the “deal” would not pass both houses of the legislature. They were right on both counts!
No one went back to work, the protests continue and the strike is nearing the end of its 2nd week. Teachers say rising health care costs are what led to their strike and they want to see a way forward for this problem.
What has been done to these West Virginia teachers and school employees – forcing ever more healthcare costs onto their backs while they live paycheck to paycheck – is the road healthcare is on for everyone. This determined fight of 33,000 teachers and school employees is every worker’s fight!