The statewide teacher’s strike in West Virginia

There is important political news in West Virginia where the entire public school system has been shut down for over a week by a statewide teacher’s strike protesting poor pay, soaring health insurance costs, plus poor working conditions. But the media has been paying scant attention to this major story. While part of the blame can be placed on the White House soap opera/circus that has soaked up much of the attention, that is not the only reason. The major media in the US are corporate capitalist enterprises and thus instinctively anti-union. They thus do not want to give oxygen to the trade union movement by highlighting that kind of collective action. If the strike receives major favorable coverage, then that might pressure the state legislators into doing something and the strikers might win their demands. The newspapers and their corporate allies fear strengthening the union movement.

The only time the media cover strikes extensively and favorably is when they take place in other countries and the strikers are challenging governments the US does not like. I recall how the media extensively covered the Polish labor strikes against the former Communist government and made Lech Walensa a household name in the US while ignoring major strikes by coal miners in the US that were taking place at the same time and whose leaders were nameless. Similarly you can expect wide coverage of anti-government strikes in countries like Venezuela.

In West Virginia the teachers have not had a raise in four years and they rejected an offer of just 2% for the next year. They are using the slogan/hashtag ‘#55Strong’ to signify that all 55 counties in the state are on strike. I do not recall there ever being a statewide teachers strike in any state.

The state legislature is controlled by Republicans (the governor is also a Republican) and they are stalling on doing anything. They are using the usual argument of not having money and have rejected adding a tax to the booming fracking industry to pay for it because the legislature listens to those with money and not people.

The teachers have occupied the state capitol building to draw attention to their cause.

Meanwhile, a Democratic state senator Richard Ojeda says that the people of West Virginia have been exploited by outside interests from way back who have enriched themselves while leaving the people in the state impoverished and he praised the work of unions.

“And as for our politicians? Didn’t matter what party they belonged to. They were all bought and paid for and consistently deterred any chance of new industry. Why in West Virginia will we fight for our coal industry? Because it is all we have.”

“Now, the same politicians who have sworn to fight for coal miners and coal mining families are selling those families to the highest bidder all because of natural gas and history is repeating itself.”

“I want to see every coal miner in West Virginia working. Our children’s lives depend on it. I want to see jobs come from the gas industry because those families depend on it.”

“But I also want to see Wild and Wonderful West Virginia be a state with a diverse flourishing economy where young people find themselves anxious to move to. I want to see a state that pays its teachers and public employees more than just a barely living wage.”

“#55 Strong is a movement. West Virginia wants more. They want better treatment by the politicians. They want a government that is not ran by extraction industries where big energy lobbyists get a swipe card to their statehouse.”

“They want a state that actually works to help their lives instead of the lives of big business. They want a government that serves them and not out of state interest groups. They want to be able to stay here. And thrive. #55strong”

His comments are not the kind one often hears even from Democratic legislators. The fact that he represents a region that is coal country and voted 75% for Donald Trump suggests that he is not afraid to directly take on Trump and his right-wing agenda. He is now running for Congress.


  1. says

    Americans want to go back to some mythic past where there was an industrial heartland and jobs, jobs, jobs -- forgetting that the only thing that saved them from predatory capitalists in management was the unions. The unions they are so busy breaking up.

    It’s like they’re really, really, really stupid.

  2. Mark Dowd says

    @Marcus: It’s just like the current crop of parents not knowing what it was like when infant mortality was high, and not knowing that vaccines are one of the main reasons they can even expect their little bundle of joy to survive to childhood. So anti-vax bullshit is able to take root because these people literally do not know about the tragedies that vaccines have already defeated.

    Similarly, most people don’t really know what it was like before unions and good labor laws, so it’s easy for them to fall prey to anti-regulation prooganda as long as you blame regulations for any current problems that they are familiar with.

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