Fellow Workers of Oklahoma: Open Letter From West Virginia

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Sometimes the tightest grip to break is the one made by the organizations which seek to manage and control struggles. Teachers in Oklahoma are now faced with a choice: continue the strike on their own terms, or give into union bureaucrats and go home. 

On Monday, April 2nd, educational employees across your great state embarked on a united campaign – to gain greater funding for schools, teachers, and support staff by any means necessary. After weeks of planning, the rank-and-file militants among you joined together and stood united outside your capitol building, refusing to return to work until your demands had been met. Years of austerity measures by your state’s legislature have forced deep cuts in your public education budget. Public school employees must work two, three, and even four jobs just to make ends meet. In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, this is nothing more than a travesty of economic equality.

Nevertheless, through two weeks of committed struggle, your perseverance has continued unabated. Your fellow workers in West Virginia have watched in awe and amazement at the level of your organization, the breadth of your agitation, and the scope of your goals. Between the statewide strikes in both of our states – and the current struggles that are soon to arise in Arizona and Kentucky – we understand the need for a militant labor movement that can truly combat the ills of our economic state. Indeed, such a movement is only as powerful as the lasting effect it has on history. The strikers in West Virginia were successful not because we acted in isolation, but because we worked in solidarity with one another and because of the sheer volume of support we received from those outside our state. Likewise, in Oklahoma, a victory will mean more than simply greater pay for public education workers – it will show to all the oppressed workers of the world that direct action can, in fact, save us from the dual evils of reactionary legislatures and establishment union hierarchies.

“To follow through with the OEA call now would provide conservative lawmakers a blue print for how to crush this new labor movement; to continue to fight back, however, would bar the gates to an undemocratic compromise.”

In light of the Oklahoma Education Association’s (OEA) recent call to end the statewide strike, we wish to extend our deepest hope that you, the rank-and-file workers of Oklahoma, will ultimately reject this call and continue your efforts at economic justice. The workers of West Virginia had to make a similarly difficult decision to go against our association leadership and refuse to return to work until a bill had passed our legislature. As many workers here have described it, it was the “most stressful day of the strike.” Yet, without this rejection and ultimately the shifting of the walkouts to a wildcat strike, we would have returned to work, sullen and beaten, while our elected officials could gloat that they were able to divide and conquer the #55United movement in its infancy.

We implore you to do likewise – reject this call by the OEA to return to work, maintain the picket lines at home, and flood the capitol where possible. Pressure your lawmakers and union officials to reconcile the fact that labor will not go quietly into that dark night; we will continue to fight, tooth and nail, until our demands have been met. To follow through with the OEA call now would provide conservative lawmakers a blue print for how to crush this new labor movement; to continue to fight back, however, would bar the gates to an undemocratic compromise.

To quote the great folk singer Pete Singer, we ask, “Which side are you on?”

Unconditional Solidarity,
The Working Class of West Virginia


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