West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation Tuesday giving all state employees a 5% pay raise, the direct result of a heroic teacher strike that lasted nearly two weeks and highlighted the plight of low pay and rising health care costs in the Mountain State.
The victory for teachers and public employees in West Virginia is a true testament to their activism and an important reminder of the power of working people to improve the lives of everyone. Whether it is raising pay, providing quality health care or making our jobs safer, all workers know that when we join together and fight together, we will win together.
Nothing is more important to our future than the quality of our children’s education. Teachers are the backbone of the education system and deserve the resources needed to inspire the next generation. A top-tier education, in West Virginia and across America, requires top-tier talent—and that requires an investment in our teachers. That is why the AFL-CIO’s 12.5 million working men and women and the entire labor movement are proud to stand with the brave teachers in West Virginia.
AFT-West Virginia President Christine Campbell said:
This is a huge victory and symbol of respect for every teacher and school support staff member in the state of West Virginia. Thousands of educators and their supporters came to the state Capitol for the last week to ensure the public and the legislature understand how important their jobs are and that they have been underpaid and undervalued. The strike and its strong outcome should be seen as a shot across the bow to every lawmaker who may underestimate the support teachers have, the hard job they do and their willingness to stand up for what they deserve as they educate the next generation.
National AFT President Randi Weingarten said:
West Virginia has a long history of labor activism—where right often met might. Today, right beat might in the truest tradition of Mother Jones. That victory is a testament to the voice and determination, the resilience and compassion, and the collective power and organizing of the educators of this state. The governor and the Legislature heard, finally, and acted, we are grateful for that.
While the strike has been front-page news for days, what was missed was that, for months, educators and school personnel were having conversations with one another—on Facebook, in-person—about the issues they were facing and what to do about them. By the time the decision to strike was made, workers were united in their demand for action, the unions were together in solidarity, and parents and community members were there to support them. Teachers and their unions even ensured that our strike and disaster relief funds could be used to feed the students in the state who get breakfast and lunch at school.
Make no mistake, the attacks on working people aren’t just happening in the classroom or on the job, they’re happening in the Supreme Court and in the state legislatures around the country. But teachers and support personnel in West Virginia showed that, as corporate and right-wing interests try to thwart our voice even more, we will rise up. If you push us to the brink, we will fight for ourselves, our families and our students. We want to teach. We want to do this job, and we proved it during this strike. This isn’t the end of the battle; teachers are still not paid well enough, and they still don’t have enough resources. But in West Virginia, lawmakers were put on notice that they needed to act in the best interests of kids and workers, not for special interests. And if they didn’t learn that lesson through this strike, workers will make sure they do in November.
Here are some other key tweets from the strike and the teachers' victory:
I miss my students. I was ready to go back tomorrow. But, we are #55united, #55strong. We are staying out so we can keep teaching and stay in WV, so we don't have to leave the profession or the state to make enough to get by. I'll see my students on the picket line!— Emily Helton (@MsHeltonReads) March 1, 2018
For those who still think our teachers don’t care, this was sent to me during the work stoppage. Just another example of the selflessness and dedication our teachers put in. Thank you Mrs. Loughman and all teachers/ faculty members as JMHS. #55strong @JMHSMonarchs pic.twitter.com/vxbh1pcpby— Jenni Whitfield (@whitfield_jenni) March 1, 2018
Teachers, we are with you. We love you, we appreciate you. We are PROUD of you. We are watching your strength and taking notes. You are not selfish. You deserve more. This is long overdue, and you are demonstrating absolute grace.— Jillian Cheek (@jillian_cheek) February 27, 2018
With love and support, hang in there #55strong
I have never been more proud than I am today after this incredible victory. So humbled to be a part of @AFTWV. In awe of this uprising. It turned into a movement that America is taking notice of. We will always win when we are united. #55Strong— Bob Brown (@bob_brown9838) March 7, 2018