How the Spark Became a Flame in West Virginia

Teachers were celebrating at the West Virginia Capitol last week, after their nine-day, statewide strike won the passage of legislation that gives them and other state employees a 5 percent raise. Some 20,000 educators in a “right-to-work” state walked out February 22 over wages and the underfunding of the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), which provides health care coverage for state workers.

The day after the strike ended, 10th and 12th grade English teacher Katie Endicott from Central Mingo High School spoke with Dana Blanchard about how this struggle came together.

I would love to hear a little bit more about the Mingo story. I know you’ve probably told this a thousand times in the past weeks, but you all kind of started this whole thing.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there was a rally. That’s a holiday that West Virginia schools have off, and teachers went to the rally in Charleston.

My little boy had the flu, so I stayed with the kids while my husband went to the rally.

When he came home, he was so dejected because he said there were only about 150 teachers there. And when he talked to state senators and delegates, they were telling him: You should be scared, you have no idea what is coming your way.

They said there were some crazy bills [about the lack of funding for the Public Employees Insurance Agency, for example] that are going to really affect you all, so you need to be thinking about how you’re going to approach things.

That was on January 15, and I told him he really needed to tell people, because people in my school didn’t know. He was wondering why people weren’t outraged, and I said I didn’t think people knew about all of these bills, so you need to tell them — tell them that there were lawmakers pulling you into their offices and telling you that this is going to turn really ugly.

So he made a Facebook Live video with a colleague, telling everyone what he had heard, and it went viral. It was crazy — there were people from all across the state…

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