February 04, 2018

Solidarity forever--and today

I have fond memories of the 1990 West Virginia teachers' strike. I was still new to working on social justice issues for the American Friends Service Committee. My first big adventure was supporting coal miners and their families in the Pittston Coal Strike, which lasted from April 5 1989 until Feb. 20, 1990.

I was kind of going through picket line withdrawal at the time and thought it was awfully nice of state teachers to help me out. Seriously though, teacher pay and morale at the time were rock bottom. The strike wasn't called by any unions; rather it grew like wildfire starting in the southern West Virginia coalfields. And it worked, with major gains for teachers.

(My fondest memory is of my late mother, who had just retired from teaching. She was boiling mad that our county hadn't walked out and asked me to bring up some union coal miners to picket and shut things down. I thought it was a great idea and got on the case but the teachers  wound up settling the strike before that could be arranged. I guess you can't have everything.)

 There could be some deja vu going on here, asWV Gazette-Mail reporter Phil Kabler wrote in today's paper.

Even while Republican legislators claim "we" can't afford a decent raise for teachers or a fix to ever increasing PEIA insurance costs, they are pushing a $140 million tax cut for some (mostly out of state) businesses. That would be more than enough to do the right thing. The business  tax cuts would come on top of cuts of over $200 million per year enacted 10 years ago, not to mention the Trump #taxscam tax cuts recently passed by congress.

I guess you could say it's "which side are you on?" time.While we're on the subject of Appalachian labor songs, you can give a listen to Solidarity Forever, the international anthem of the labor movement, which was inspired by events right here just over 100 years ago.

Anyhow, then as now, I stand in solidarity with our teachers. Obviously.

 And I'm grateful that they are showing some of that fighting spirit that once animated West Virginia.

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