West Virginia teachers and public employees gettin’ it done!

The crowd at the WVa rally on March 3, supporting teachers and public employees in their strike.
The crowd at the WVa rally on March 3, supporting teachers and public employees in their strike. (photo by Richard Mauro)

Here are photos, videos, and a writeup from the front lines of the West Virginia teachers and public employees strike. The writeup is by Richard Mauro, while the photos and videos were taken by Karen, his wife. They both live in Kentucky, but Karen is a teacher across the border in West Virginia. Our thanks to them for sharing with their Kentucky neighbors!

Here you go, Kentucky – people rising up to make a difference. THIS is what democracy looks like!

An uprising on our border

WV teachers and state employees, after years of flat wages and increasing healthcare costs, have reached their limit. On February 22, public school teachers walked off the job in all 55 of the state’s counties. Since that time they have been flooding the state capitol daily, often with crowds estimated at 5,000 – 6,000, and complimented by smaller demonstrations in each county.

The strike is supported by the UMW and Teamsters, and messages of encouragement are received constantly from teacher federations from across the nation and the world. Friday, the movement received a very special boost when students and their parents from around the state organized their own rally on the steps of the capitol including supportive speeches by students and a march with teachers.

Since its start, the strike has had many unusual twists and turns. The Governor, who is a Republican, has proposed a deal that has been largely accepted by the unions and has been passed by the Republican-controlled House 98 to 1. It includes a one-time 5% raise for teachers, a 16-month freeze on premiums and benefits of the health insurance plan, and an executive order to appoint a task force to find long-term funding solutions for state health insurance prior to the expiration of the freeze. But the Senate, which is also Republican controlled, is stalling and attempting to change the deal. In a surprising move in a meeting with county Superintendents on March 2, the Governor advised them to support their teachers and accept no reductions in the proposed raise. In his own words, “not even 4.9% and 19 chickens.” No one is sure when this will end, but there appears to be no wavering in the teachers efforts or determination.

It seems to me that there is a tempest in this country just below the surface for working people. White, black, brown, and all shades in between, most of us are in the same boat and have the same frustration as the teachers. Many are confused and not sure whom to blame or follow, but I think it is starting to sink in that “trickle down” and pandering to big-money interests are not the way. Opportunity exists, I believe, for politicians with a bold, progressive economic message that will truly lift up our working and middle classes.

One last thing. I do agree that West Virginia is almost heaven. After all, it does border Kentucky.

The pictures

The videos:

Rally Inside the Capitol

Jeers for GOP Lawmakers

Cheers for Dem Senators