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Biggers writes: "The victorious strike by teachers in West Virginia did not only result in a long overdue pay raise. With the exuberance of a nine-day teach-in, the teachers and their supporters have taught the nation a compelling lesson on the historical role of a true resistance."

From left, Lois Casto, Nina Tunstalle, Katherine Dudley and Kara Brown, elementary school teachers in West Virginia, reacted to news of the 5 percent raise on Tuesday. (photo: Hudson/Charleston/Gazette-Mail/AP)
From left, Lois Casto, Nina Tunstalle, Katherine Dudley and Kara Brown, elementary school teachers in West Virginia, reacted to news of the 5 percent raise on Tuesday. (photo: Hudson/Charleston/Gazette-Mail/AP)


The West Virginia Teachers' Strike Is What Real Resistance Looks Like

By Jeff Biggers, Guardian UK

11 March 18


This kind of resistance does not allow onlookers to look away, especially in an age of social media. It brings the story to those who have refused to read it

he victorious strike by teachers in West Virginia did not only result in a long overdue pay raise. With the exuberance of a nine-day teach-in, the teachers and their supporters have taught the nation a compelling lesson on the historical role of a true resistance.

Taking to the streets, picketing on the sidewalks, and charging into the Capitol itself, the strike turned the public commons into a counter space for “we the people.”

One by one, the roughly 20,000 teachers in West Virginia essentially forced lawmakers – and the nation – to stop our daily routine and address the growing education crisis on the terms of those most devoted to ensuring the best outcomes for our children: our teachers.

This is why strikes, more than one-day protests, often bring lasting victories. It took an uncompromising walk-out to get West Virginia lawmakers to recognize that our inability to commit to a living wage and decent health benefits for our teachers mirrors our negligence in investing in classrooms for our children.

Instead of a fleeting protest, the hardship of the open-ended West Virginia strike reflected the urgency of our times and the long-haul commitment of the teachers for an enduring resolution, not a compromise or some sort of fleeting gain.

With an estimated 10% of the American workforce reportedly in a union, the legacy of striking might have become a lost tactic to some. As the son of a union teacher and the grandson of a union coal miner, I believe the West Virginia teachers have renewed a strategic call for other movements engaged in what we have called a “resistance” against the onslaught of policies decisions and regulatory rollbacks by the Trump administration.

The time has come to employ strikes in other areas.

When it comes to dealing with the inexorable grip of the National Rifle Association lobby on our gun policies or the undue influence of the oil, gas and coal lobbies on our energy and climate plans, for example, wide-scale strikes by students, teachers and all concerned citizens may be our last best hope for policy changes today.

Imagine how quickly we could begin to deal with gun control, if all pre-school employees, teachers and staff walked out and went on an indefinite strike – and the large majority of supporters, according to most polls, joined them.

Imagine how swiftly we could start the process of transitioning to renewable energy alternatives, low-carbon transportation designs, local food and regenerative agricultural policies, if all school employees, teachers and students refused to teach and study in schools powered by carbon emission-spewing fossil fuels that are destabilizing our planet.

The strike in West Virginia has powerfully revived this historic tactic for the rest of the nation.

Addressing the same egregious combination of low wages and underfunded schools in bottom-rung states like Arizona and Oklahoma, teachers are wearing red in solidarity this week and negotiating the terms of their own possible walk-outs to raise attention to the instability of school districts that have been gutted by disastrous funding policies.

This is a tactical lesson of resistance that reminds us that our schools have always served as the front lines of the challenges of inequality facing our communities.

This kind of resistance does not allow onlookers to look away, especially in an age of social media. It brings the story to those who have refused to read it. It forces everyone to take part in the national discussion, and engage in the still small possibility of justice.


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0 # Robbee 2018-03-11 17:22
O U T S T A N D I N G !
 
 
+6 # jsluka 2018-03-11 17:36
See Howard Zinn's book A Peoples History of the United States.
 
 
+8 # economagic 2018-03-11 19:07
There seems to me to be quite a bit of "fat" in this article, but the fundamental point--if you want better wages or working conditions you have to hurt the people standing in your way at least a little for at least a little while--is right on. There are only a few people today who actually remember the strikes of the early to mid-20th century that created the modern "middle class" (technically a fairly paid working class). Worse, there may be even fewer who have studied that history and understood what it means.

We might well think about the reasons that is so, and the reasons we no longer teach civics and in many states little or no history. Who make those decisions? Who benefits? They are the ones whom we have to hurt at least a little bit in order to have any hope of reclaiming our democracy, economic as well as political.
 
 
-16 # brycenuc 2018-03-11 19:21
Carbon emissions are not endangering our planet. The planet is better off with more carbon emissions. The increase of CO2 in our atmosphere is why world food abundance has increased and why it has become more affordable. CO2 does not cause more than negligible (yet beneficial) warming of our planet. The "war on carbon" is a tragic and foolish mistake.
 
 
+2 # dotlady 2018-03-11 19:31
As I understand it, this was only a partial victory and the teachers did not get some of the things they demanded, such as health care. Is this positive spin because any small victory feels so big given this administration' s goals of tearing down unions, teachers and public schools?
 
 
0 # Aliazer 2018-03-11 19:37
What about the exorbitant insurance rates that they were demanding to be lowered???

Did they give up on that??
 
 
+1 # Sam Seaman 2018-03-11 19:41
The teacher`s strike is a reminder that striking is a thing that respectable middle-class people do on occasion - and successfully too.
 
 
+8 # HenryS1 2018-03-11 20:54
Most strikes are not reported, and the strikers crushed. Particularly ones that are technically illegal.

I'm happy this one succeeded, but one that is not a "perfect storm" will fail. All of the law, and court decisions, and all the power, are going the other way and labor is struggling to survive.

So, don't get carried away, and don't try to incite people to risk their jobs for anything less than survival. If strikes are seen as protests against unrelated issues, then the strikes and strikers will be spun as villains.

The unusual things that happened in West Virginia that may have contributed to success?

Strikers were unified and acted cohesively and decisively.

Their demands were extremely reasonable.

Teachers are fairly sympathetic figures to the public and understood to be underpaid.

WV teachers in particular were underpaid by US standards.

Schools not being open was a serious impact the strikers brought about, and there was no option for strike-breakers to be brought in to replace them quickly enough to restore classes.

Once the governor gave a legal admission to their primary demand, they maintained pressure until the legislature followed through. The onus was on the legislature to do so while the strikers were still out.

Labor should be bold when it is sure it has the advantages to win, which is rare. Otherwise they need to survive to live to another day.

Just my opinion.
 
 
+1 # LionMousePudding 2018-03-11 21:41
Exactly. Protests are toothless.
 
 
+3 # Ken Halt 2018-03-12 22:03
The affluence of the US working class directly tracks the rise and fall of union membership. In Europe union membership hovers around 70%, in US it is only about 10% now, a statistic that has much to do with the quality of life on the different continents.
 

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