The revolt of the West Virginia teachers

 

The revolt of the West Virginia teachers

2 March 2018

The strike of 30,000 West Virginia teachers, now entering its seventh day, requires the urgent and active support of the entire working class. The issues on which the teachers are fighting are universal: declining wages, deteriorating social infrastructure, the attack on public education, growing social inequality and rising health care costs.

The teachers’ repudiation of the agreement worked out behind closed doors by the trade unions and the state’s billionaire governor, Jim Justice, is a blow to the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and their state affiliates. From the beginning of the struggle, the unions have sought to suppress, limit and redirect opposition behind the Democratic Party and fruitless appeals to state legislators. These maneuvers culminated in the deal with Justice, which failed to meet any of the basic demands of the teachers, coupled with an order to return to work.

On Wednesday, teachers held impromptu meetings in the state capitol and decided to reject the call for an end to their struggle. County-by-county votes in every school district ended with the same result: the strike will continue; the schools will remain closed.

Map depicting school closures on Thursday due to strike votes

The central demand of teachers is for full funding of the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), which manages health care for teachers and public employees. The effort to place an ever greater share of health care costs on the backs of workers is part of a national policy, supported by both Democrats and Republicans. There is a deliberate effort to reduce the life expectancy of the working class through the restriction of access to health care—a campaign that assumes a…

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