Much has been aired in the national media about the West Virginia Teachers’ strike. Predictable reactions include union bashing. But that didn’t work. Instead, what started as a protest in the coal counties only soon spread across the state. West Virginia was nearly last amongst the states in terms of what they paid teachers and state employees. The result of collective action was a pay increase for all state employees and teachers, without raising taxes.
A lesson learned is coming to us courtesy of 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 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.
If you have enough working people who are pushed to the breaking point, and who are angry about a specific grievance, then it’s the duty of activists to let them know that they deserve better — and that their lives can get better if they take action on that issue. If you lead the way, people will respond.”
With numbers comes a strength which surpasses the sum of individual effort. The West Virginia governor said this wasn’t a ‘win’ for any particular group – but for what is right. “At the end of the day, I think right won out … Not that the unions won or the Legislature won or I won. It’s the idea and the premise that we ought to invest in education and let education be an economic driver for us.”
The billionaire republican governor, ironically named Justice, is right.
John B. Boyd