The following press release comes from the West Virginia IWW, and addresses the attempt by union ‘leadership’ and the Democratic Party to get teachers across the state to end the current strike and return to work and accept a small raise over the next year. For background information on the strike check out our podcast here.
Earlier today, Governor Jim Justice (R) announced that he had reached a compromise with the leadership of the three main teachers unions – West Virginia Education Association (WVEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association (WVSSPA).
Justice announced that he would work with the Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates Tim Armstead, and the Republican Senate President, Mitch Carmichael, to finalize a deal that would, over the year, provide a 5% pay increase to educators, table bills that affected teacher seniority, and create a task force to examine funding routes for the state’s Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA). Justice proclaimed at this meeting that teachers would report back to their schools on Thursday, March 1st and the strike would then end.
Crowded around Justice were Christine Campbell and Dale Lee, presidents of the AFT-WV and WVEA, respectively. While leadership has touted this agreement as a victory for educators across the state, who have been on strike since Thursday, February 22nd, workers across the state ultimately reject leadership’s compromise.
An overwhelming number of public employees on the West Virginia Public Employees UNITED page have voted on a poll in opposition to the current deal. At last count, over 1,000 voters rejected the deal outright, over 400 said the deal was a start but ultimately rejected it, and only 21 said they accepted the deal as is.
Workers in this state have shown the power of rank-and-file control over their counties’ actions, while many brave counties engaged in direct action prior to union leadership’s calling for a statewide walkout. The workers of this state will reject and continue to reject any and all compromise with this reactionary legislature that does NOT meet the following demands:
1. A natural gas severance tax that creates a self-sustaining source of revenue for PEIA and public employee pay.
2. No regressive taxes, which ultimately affect working-class families more than the wealthy elite.
3. A permanent tabling to any and all legislation pertaining to co-tenancy and joint development, which allow large natural gas industries to engulf local landowners.
4. A pay raise of 5% per year over the next half decade.
5. A permanent tabling to any and all legislation pertaining to charter schools, voucher systems, and any attempts to privatize public schools.
It has been 28 years since West Virginia teachers have staged a statewide walkout. In that time, workers in this state have seen the erosion of their rights progress over these past two and a half decades. West Virginians cannot wait another 28 years for another opportunity like this. We demand that the strike continue until all demands have been met.