Is West Virginia An Omen?

When media reported that the West Virginia teachers strike had ended in victory for that state’s teachers and other public employees, a newsletter to which I subscribe (link unavailable) described the potential fallout:

 As striking West Virginia teachers win their demand for a 5% increase for themselves and all of the state’s public employees, teachers in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Arizona are poised to follow suit, amid reports that “a backlash is brewing against the Republican tax-cutting frenzy.” The Payday Report’s Mike Elk reports that “West Virginia Governor Justice vowed to veto any bills that would fund charter schools, strip teachers of their seniority, or reduce or remove the deduction of union dues from their paychecks even if those dues are applied to political work.”

It was especially noteworthy that the bargaining effort was mounted despite the fact that it occurred without official union backing.  The union representing teachers in West Virginia–as elsewhere– has been hamstrung by state law; it was too weakened to attempt an action like this. As a column in the Guardian noted, “The teachers walked out on their own, fed up with a status quo that was leaving them nearly destitute.” It was an illegal wildcat strike.

Is this a turning point? A breaking point? With the rightwing Neil Gorsuch poised to cast the deciding vote in the Janus v AFSCME, the US supreme court is on the verge of dealing a devastating blow to public sectors unions. If it’s not a deathblow – unions in labor-friendly states will find ways to retain power, while those elsewhere will wither – it’s something not far off.

In West Virginia, there is hope. The first Gilded Age gave rise to labor militancy; oppressed workers across the country proudly organized unions to strike back against the oligarchs who were torturing them day and night. The eight-hour day, vacation days, and all the other labor protections we take for granted were born out of union advocacy.

Another column dubbed the strike an example of “real resistance.”

The victorious strike by teachers in West Virginia did not only result in a long overdue pay raise. With the exuberance of a nine-day teach-in, the teachers and their supporters have taught the nation a compelling lesson on the historical role of a true resistance.

The author then indulged in a series of “what if” questions: what if everyone who detested the NRA joined a nationwide strike for more stringent gun laws? What if all teachers, students and other school workers refused to come to work in buildings powered by fossil fuels?

This kind of resistance does not allow onlookers to look away, especially in an age of social media. It brings the story to those who have refused to read it. It forces everyone to take part in the national discussion, and engage in the still small possibility of justice.

Nationwide strikes of this sort remain highly unlikely, although West Virginia has arguably given impetus to more localized efforts.

On balance, we can draw a couple of important lessons from events in West Virginia: (1) You can only beat working people down for so long before they refuse to remain acquiescent; and (2) There are more of them than there are of the plutocrats and their bought-and-paid-for legislators.

 

27 thoughts on “Is West Virginia An Omen?

  1. No Omen, but it could ignite other groups to resist oppression. This happened outside of the teachers union. That’s a very important point which needs to be hammered home via articles detailing why, and we all need to know how they organized.

    I can guarantee the state is trying to figure out how they organized and who were the main organizers.

    The state’s counteraction is very, very important here.

    Those who organized the protests against Trump were hunted down by AG Jeff Sessions. He even insisted that private companies give up ISP’s of subscribers who visited the website set up by organizers.

    I expect the same thing to happen in West Virginia.

    The teachers in Indiana should have walked a long time ago to what’s happening in their profession. Indiana is so red we’ve been used to push Neoliberal reforms the hardest. Yet, no walkouts.

    Public schools may be the line people have crossed in the sand. We shall see…

    Hoosiers teachers should have started walking out once HB 1315 was introduced by Rep. Tim Brown. If they couldn’t see what it means, there is no hope for Hoosiers. Actually, they should have walked out years ago as public monies were diverted to help subsidize private and religious schools.

    Denial runs deep in Indiana. I think it’s Gullible Central in the Midwest.

  2. “You can only beat working people down so long before they refuse to remain acquiescent.”

    THIS is what I have been saying for the past several years. I believe we will continue to see uprisings in many places and for many reasons.

    Today’s youth are showing that they will not accept being beaten down like their parents have been.

  3. The MSNBC Chris Hayes, Bernie Sanders’ one hour report from the poorest county in West Virginia needs to be broadcast again. ..and again. They sat with Trump voters who were trying to survive their rude awakening of the truth behind his lies on many issues, within a few months of his inauguration…and they were already suffering greatly and regretting their part in electing him.

    “On balance, we can draw a couple of important lessons from events in West Virginia: (1) You can only beat working people down for so long before they refuse to remain acquiescent; and (2) There are more of them than there are of the plutocrats and their bought-and-paid-for legislators.”

    The West Virginia broadcast dealt primarily with the failing mining, loss of jobs and health care and their escalating opioid epidemic and was an early example of what was to come. They have been forced to add to their suffering as other issues came to light; the teacher’s strike is but one issue regarding education in West Virginia and throughout this country. The “dumbing down of America” is just beginning; the West Virginia situation should be an “omen” to the Trump administration and Congress but individual issues are difficult to follow due to the general chaotic situation they are dealing with and we are living in today.

  4. Nancy,

    Well said. “…and a child shall lead them.”

    Ever since Reagan, public schools and school teachers have been under attack. Why? Because educated, thinking people tend to vote for Democrats…no matter what Todd says about them. Republicans have been against organized labor since the industrial revolution began. Labor trolls like Scott Walker in Wisconsin are so in the bag with the Koch brothers, that they will never change their spots. They keep trotting out the meme that the problem with schools is teachers’ unions. Of course they would say that. Walker and all the rest of the Koch acolytes must be removed from office and sent back to civics classes.

    Indiana isn’t the only place where teachers are oppressed by Republican politicians. In Texas, these damned fools tried to write out Thomas Jefferson from texts. They loath the teaching of evolution or climate science. Between churches and Republicans/Libertarians, public education is under attack still. Perhaps rebellion is the only way to remove the blight of Republicanism.

  5. Over the years, I have heard many people bemoaning their local union leadership. They would accuse them of cronyism, bad judgement, and worse, but everytime I suggested they run for local president, they just couldn’t be bothered to do that. Like everything else in life, if you want what’s best you have to work for it, whether it’s a union or a government.

  6. Indeed,the strike is what a “real” resistance is and looks like by total definition. Not the faux McResistance seen online amongst many affluent/shut-in liberals.

    I would like to clear one thing up in the comments thus far,Vernon is attempting to marginalize Todd by accusing him of hating Democrats when that is not the truth. An astute reader will notice Todd has a history of disliking DINO’s and has a disappointment wrt establishment Democrats. I share his view. Vernon ends his comment by stating we must remove Koch acolytes from office. I agree and Todd does as well. The difference is Todd and myself believe in removing Koch acolytes such as Joe Donnelly (D) from office. Many readers here would disagree with our view and would simply continue to support Koch acolytes that are members of the DNC and DCCC. We don’t hate Democrats. We dislike Democrats carrying the Koch agenda and have no use for them. Those of us tired of DINO’s get more flack from DNC apparatchiks than they give toward Republican commenters….I wonder why? Perhaps they are more in line with “conservative” politics that they would like to let on? This “marginalizing” will alienate more folks from the Democratic Party than any constructive criticism given by myself and others. In fact, to continue marginalizing us as was done in 2016 …..It didn’t work out very well.

    Wrt the teacher’s strike in Virginia. It didn’t get any support from the Democratic Party and its apparatchiks did it? Only well after the fact are the pom poms coming out…..after the grunt work has been done. You would almost think DNC and DCCC operatives believe that such genuine “resistance” is …well ….Gauche.

  7. To William’s point, neither the Republicans or the Democrats are doing enough to support the school teachers. I live 30 miles from West Virginia and followed the revolt carefully. In my long ago home State of Oklahoma the teachers have not had an increase in 10 years and rank 50th in salaries. Most schools open 4 days a week as a cost savings measure. Neither party has lifted a finger.

    It’s disgraceful and we must acknowledge the Dems have some cleaning up of their own to do.

  8. It’s ironic you make the point about Donnelly in this particular thread, William. He is the old fashioned conservative pro-labor Democrat who would support the teacher unions.

    My opinion: if you are a Democrat who refuses to support Donnelly, you are worse than a Republican.

    You don’t have to agree with him (I often don’t). But you HAVE TO vote for him. It’s not an exaggeration to say our democracy may depend on it.

  9. If anyone knows anything about the Koch brothers’ operating philosophy, they’d know that it is a very long stretch to assign a Democrat to them. Speaking of WV, Joe Manchin has to toe a certain “conservative” line (especially with guns) in order to stay in office there. He’s a good guy and I feel kind of sorry for him. And, yes, Democrats have cleaning up to do within their own ranks. They should stop driving wedges between themselves and keep their eye on the ball.

    Defeating Republicans at every level is the ball.

    William,

    Read my books and then get back to me about defining DINO and true progressives.

  10. I agree completely with Over It. These stupid purity tests for candidate is the exact mentality that has destroyed the GOP. Donelly is an Indiana Democrat. I wish he were more liberal, but I will vote for him any day over a Republican that supports a crazy president because they choose to vote their party before country

  11. That a revolution would occur was predictable in Nov of 2016, the only unknowns being what kind and when.

    The encouraging thing is that it has eminted from our education institutions despite Betsy DeVos and from millennials and their teachers.

    I agree with the comments that the Kochs are among the greatest threats to freedom. However I disagree with William and Todd about the direction the resistance must assume. I believe that they are addressing some symptoms of bad government rather than the existential problem that we are facing and that is a luxury we just do not any longer have.

    First we must reassert the power of the people in clear and unambiguous terms and that can and will be done by voting all Ds this year and ’20. It will send a clear message to the entire authoritarian coalition.
    We will put up with no more.

    After that, when the propaganda network has been silenced, we can sort out those who can govern best. The best outcome of the strategy would be to break up the ad hoc Trumpian coalition and end the GOP and backfill with a spilt Democratic Party giving a clear choice between platform priorities rather than democracy vs oligarchy.

    Oligarchy is the source of all of the threat to democracy whether they eminate from Russia or our shores. Only when that has been fully exposed to the light of the electorate will the threat be turned away.

    This is not politics as usual. This is revolution.

  12. The only one demanding purity is those that are demanding of support from everyone for anyone with a D behind their name–regardless of their voting history and views. I guess the commenters here are dependant upon the party to fill their rice bowls. Yep, folks such as myself, we’re the bad guys. If Donnelly votes along with Trump and votes to support a Koch agenda….He’s still a good guy and we must support him….. It’s no wonder we’re where we’re at.

    Which means you actually have no views beyond brand loyalty. It’s all about brand loyalty. Brand PURITY! Vote for us because……Republicans AND OMG RUSSIA!!

    That’s a winning strategy with substance! (sarcasm mode on high)

    If that’s all we’ve got….We deserve to lose.

  13. Pete,a revolution requires one to think outside of the box and to leave the area within close proximity to their PC. The teacher’s strike is an example. So was OWS. Voting for DINO’s isn’t a revolution. Voting for all D’s isn’t a revolution.

    If the liberals of today were the liberals of yesteryear,we would still be talking only amongst ourselves about having a future with a 40 hour work week. Come to think of it,the liberals of today would be on the side of management.

  14. Over It and Teresa Kendall; I agree that voting for Donnelly because he is the Democratic candidate is a necessity at this time. I think disagreeing with him, as with all candidates, it is the specific issues where he supported Republicans that is the problem for some of those who do not want to vote for him. I was an Independent voter for decades; following individual candidates of both parties was challenging, interesting and almost always educational. I actually resent feeling FORCED to vote the straight Democratic ticket due to the lack of logic, common sense, humanity and anti-civil right foundation of the Republican party. The pride and pleasure of going to the polls on election day to cast my ballot for those I believed best suited to be elected is long gone; it is fear and self-preservation which propels me now on election days. Those Bernie bots I referred to yesterday have no understanding of protecting our individual rights as well as preserving democracy and upholding the Constitution; they picked up their marbles and went home in 2016…totally ignoring Bernie’s explanations and requests to support him by voting the party choice. He was telling them to cast their vote AGAINST Trump. They were NOT supporting Bernie with their insistence to write in his name, vote for Stein or Johnson or not vote at all; they were being childish because they didn’t get their way.

    We are at that same place now here in Indiana with Joe Donnelly being the party choice…or letting the Republicans take back that seat in the Senate. Indiana is already in deep trouble regarding our education system; it worsens each year and each year puts our future in further jeopardy. Put your egos aside and use your intelligence and common sense in May and again in November; elections are not personal popularity contests, support or denial of our rights are at stake now as never before.

  15. Many years ago my brother-in-law’s union went on strike at a power plant Illinois. His main anger was directed at other unions who crossed their picket lines. Retired union employees were engaged by the company as temps and these retired workers crossed the picket lines.

    My niece was part of a group that tried unionize nurses, ten years or so ago. The hospitals brought their wrath on the group and stopped the drive to unionize.

    The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 was viewed by unions as the first step in a process to defang the unions. Democratic President Harry Truman vetoed the bill. His veto was over ridden. Per Wiki – Labor leaders called it the “slave-labor bill”, while President Truman argued that it was a “dangerous intrusion on free speech”, arguing that it would “conflict with important principles of our democratic society”. Nevertheless, Truman would subsequently use it twelve times during his presidency.

    March 7, 1978 – President Carter invoked the Taft-Hartley Act yesterday in an attempt to force the rebellious United Mine Workers back to work and end the nation’s record 91-day-old coal strike.

    Patco- Reagan wound up firing a total of 11,345 air traffic controllers, not only fired, they were banned for life from ever holding a federal civil service job.

    November 11, 2002 – When President George Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act against 10,500 dock-workers, citing that “national security” and “our military” were imperiled by the work stoppage imposed by the shipping bosses, it was the first time the law had been used in 24 years. In 1978 coal miners stood up to former president James Carter, a “friend of labor,” who invoked the act and threatened to use troops to break their 110-day strike.

    The Taft-Hartley measure, however, has been used many times in the past half century to intervene in labor battles. The Democratic administration of Harry Truman, another “friend of labor,” invoked the antilabor law no less than 12 times in response to the greatest labor upsurge in U.S. history–a strike wave in 1945-46, which included a national maritime strike that shut down every port on the country’s coastlines. http://www.themilitant.com/2002/6642/664260.html

    Apr 13, 2016 – Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined nearly 40,000 Verizon workers who are on strike in New York City after the communications company and unions representing the workers failed to reach a labor agreement.

    The DNC was long ago captured by Wall Street.

  16. Just to be clear this what a real Democrat sounds like – ‘You Should Be Fired, Not Rewarded’: Elizabeth Warren Slams Scandal-Ridden Wells Fargo CEO for 35 Percent Raise”.

    Dear Tim Sloan: @WellsFargo is getting sanctioned by regulators left and right. You already made 291x more than your average employee. Now you’re getting a $4.6 million raise and want praise because you’re not getting a bonus on top? You should be fired, not rewarded. Elizabeth Warren.
    =========================================================
    16 Democrats had the power to stop a massive big bank giveaway from passing the Senate Wednesday night, but instead they decided—with a “green light” from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y)—to hand the GOP more than enough votes to ram the deregulatory bill through instead, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis by significantly increasing the risk of another one.

    16 Democrats joined a unified Republican caucus in approving the so-called “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.” Among the 16 were Joe Donnelly and newly minted Doug Jones from Alabama.

    As consumer groups, former regulators, civil rights organizations, and labor unions denounced the bill’s passage on Wednesday, the measure’s success did find one welcome audience: the Trump White House. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/03/15/10th-anniversary-wall-street-crash-democrats-help-gop-set-stage-next-one

    By the way Vern Joe Manchin is one of 16. Since this is Basketball Tournament time I guess the Trump WH got it’s Sweet Sixteen Democrats.

  17. Speaking of strikes…

    It’s interesting you don’t read much about the anti-war resistance within the military during the Vietnam War. Oh,you’ve read and heard a lot about the “hippie” resistance at campus’, et al.

    There’s a reason for that. Just as there was a reason as to why OWS had to be crushed and crushed hard. Just as there’s a reason as to why pundits earning millions of dollars a year are enthusiastically supportive of a McResistance. Now,the only “resistance” profered is one of impotence. One that is controlled by the executive class and their courtiers of the lower 19% just below the 1%. This “new” resistance only asks (demands like an angry child) that you simply vote for a straight Democratic Party ticket and Democracy is saved. That’s BS and a fairy tale. Of course,if you don’t go along and see the impotence and transparency of such…well,you’re stupid and probably a RUSSIAN!

    Btw,for those interested and unfamiliar ,here’s a bit about a genuine resistance during the Vietnam War from Professor David Cortright.

    David Cortright is an Army veteran serving from 1968-71, and the author of the classic book, Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War. He is a professor and director of policy studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

    http://www.vietnampeace.org/blog/antiwar-resistance-within-the-military-during-the-vietnam-war

    The truth is the PTB would be scared of a real resistance. That is why the McResistance is impotent. It’s approved by executive/donor class.

  18. After we fix the existential threat one of the problems up next is campaign financing. I think that getting out of our current approach with it’s arms race implication that only having more than your opponent matters is purely a matter of political will.

    All candidates should have equal access to the public while running. I think that the only legitimate access should be public debates moderated by fact checking organizations and legitimate news analysts.

    Problem solved.

    I’m pretty sure that that would spell a permanent end to the Republican Party as they are now and force voters to consider those with a real message.

  19. There has always been dissatisfaction by some citizens, some times and about some issues, but IMHO, it takes something to tip the scales to get broad based resistance. It might just be one thing or it might be the cumulative effect of several things.

    For instance, in the 1960’s, students could be drafted at age 18, even though they didn’t have the right to vote for the a-holes who started the war. That brought about change. Black people were murdered in the South, in particular, police not only wouldn’t protect them, they used fire hoses and dogs to stop peaceful protesters. The Alabama Governor blocked the school house door to defy a federal court order for desegregation. Blacks could only ride at the back of the bus, they couldn’t sit at a lunch counter, could only drink out of “colored” water fountains and only use “colored” rest rooms. White juries wouldn’t convict white murderers of black people, blacks couldn’t get on juries or vote, so people got fed up and change happened.

    In this age, Trump is such an outlier in terms of emotional instability, lack of integrity, lack of fitness for the job, one scandal after another, that I am hoping this will be the tipping point. If Republicans won’t do the right thing, then maybe enough citizens, even in dependably red districts, will vote them out.

  20. We know the Republicans will do absolutely nothing wrt campaign finance reform. Pete,the Democrats have had plenty of time in the past to address campaign financing,especially when they had the WH and Congress. What makes you believe all of a sudden they have had an epiphany and will address the problem? From my vantage point,it appears they like the way campaigns are financed. Hell,Hillary Clinton’s campaign raised the bar wrt the amounts in donations given by donors.

    If you’re telling me the Democratic Party is going to forego monies from the executive-class and lobbying groups–do you really believe we’re that naive? And/Or is the idea of campaign reform coming from the Democratic Party just wishful thinking? If you’re saying we the people are going to force the issue and the Democrats will follow through–again that’s naive and simply wishful thinking. Considering we the public cannot influence both political organizations to stop the military incursions abroad. How many years have we been in Iraq and Afghanistan? When was the last major anti-war march?

  21. Muncie teachers that looted the community must have flown under the unreliable radar of Todd. Keeping that community in the dark about it’s mediocre academic performance has been a long term effort in which the teachers have taken part. The fiscal mis management is solely due to trade union pressure…after all, they ATE this $10,000,000 of money that is missing now. Todd does know of corruption in Muncie but don’t know that he has done anything about it. As for the oligarchs Sheila dislikes, I wasn’t reading her when they dropped in to Indiana to give marching orders to Bosma and Long over the RFRA matter….I suspect she then licked their boots.

  22. Wow, “licked their boots” Come on! If you don’t like the author of this blog, why show up and post comments like that. Good grief. Get a life.

  23. Hillary campaign donations paid for her campaign advertising. Trump matched her by a combination of his personal funding, “unearned media time”, 100% of Fox “News” time for a whole year, campaign donations and Russian social media spending not aimed at him personally but creating divisions among Democrats as we see here.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/04/14/somebody-just-put-a-price-tag-on-the-2016-election-its-a-doozy/

    In total the public got mostly lies from Republicans vs mostly truth from HRC by actual fact checking referees.

    The net result was a completely unqualified candidate got only 3M votes less than one of the most qualified candidates ever.

    It was obviously all a total waste of money in terms of informing voters about the quality of each candidates platform.

    We can do much better as an informed democracy.

  24. I would’ve thought Leon Dixon had been treated as a pariah by now….

    This comment from Economist Michael Hudson makes sense:

    “It’s true that the Democrats don’t want to govern. But they also don’t want anyone ELSE (esp. to the left) to block the Republicans from enacting the Blue-Dog/Republican neoliberal code.
    The Democratic strategy is to protect the Republicans from a left attack; by blocking any alternative party, from Bernie’s independents to the socialists. Co-opting any real left by “identity politics” that excludes wage-earners, workers, etc.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Hudson_(economist)

    Michael Hudson is an American economist, professor of economics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and a researcher at the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College( more at the link).

  25. William: “…It’s interesting you don’t read much about the anti-war resistance within the military during the Vietnam War. Oh,you’ve read and heard a lot about the “hippie” resistance at campus’, et al.

    There’s a reason for that.” Among straight patriots, it wasn’t and isn’t called “resistance”. The closest my platoon came to any sort of revolt against the platoon leader (me) was each time we had it within our power to murder non-combatants, women and children and babies, a contingent of my men got themselves worked up into a hysterical fit that I would not permit such a thing. Most of those men, who wanted unfettered “get-tough” revenge on unarmed innocents, were the same men whom I could not count on to have the toughness and courage to do their job when we were attacked. Resistance? That’s what those men were afraid of: little brown men resisting bloody redneck bullying. Any resistance at all and those dudes you’re talking about wither; they don’t resist; they wither.

  26. Leon – Muncie teachers didn’t manage the school system or write the checks which caused Muncie’s problem. Neither the State Board of Accounts, the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board, nor the local school board found the source of the problem. So the the teachers’ bargaining team and their attorney spent many hours researching school finance records and discovered the superintendent’s mismanagement. The teachers then stepped up to the plate to give back benefits they’d bargained and which the school board and superintendent had agreed to. That voluntary action solved 60% of the deficit the school system needed to make up.

    For that civic responsibility, the state legislature proposed legislation to punish the teachers who demonstrated more leadership, hours of effort, and sacrifice than anyone else. If there was ever an example of “no good deed goes unpunished”, this surely was it.

  27. Larry,

    “Resistance? That’s what those men were afraid of: little brown men resisting bloody redneck bullying. Any resistance at all and those dudes you’re talking about wither; they don’t resist; they wither.”

    You’re 100% correct. If Donald Trump and his racism had any REAL RESISTANCE, he would’ve already be on the run.

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