The nine-day strike by 33,000 West Virginia public school employees on March 6th has triggered worker protests across the country. As municipalities and companies discontinue pensions and health benefits, workers are reacting. Calls for worker strikes and protests by teachers and other workers are now heard in several states and cities. Educators in Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky and New Jersey are now demanding strike action.
In Kentucky, protest are continuing inside the state capitol building in Frankfort opposing a Senate plan to cut the annual cost-of-living adjustment for teachers’ pensions. Teachers in school districts across Kentucky are organizing protests against pension cuts. Kentucky Education President Stephanie Winkle has warned that a strike is imminent. Teachers in Oklahoma are the lowest paid in the nation and the Oklahoma Education Association posted a notice on Facebook announcing a statewide strike on April 2nd. Educators in Arizona are considering a ‘sickout and in New Jersey teachers voted for strike action.
The teacher strike in West Virginia has inspired other workers to civil action. More than 1,400 Frontier employees in West Virginia and parts of Virginia are striking against the telecommunications giant. Frontier has reduced full-time positions, increased the use of consultants and cut healthcare as well as other benefits. Clearly utilizing our first amendment to protest or demonstrate is a formidable tool. The political lesson of the West Virginia teachers’ struggle must be learned by all of us.
An article published in the New York Times Thursday March 8th notes, “The West Virginia teachers found ways to organize and act outside the usual parameters of traditional unionism and the lesson … is that undermining public sector unions, as the Janus case seeks to do, will not guarantee labor peace.”