West Virginia Teachers United
Through pounding rain, wind and muddy conditions, teachers across West Virginia are standing up after being put on the back burner and forgotten for years. In a time where there are seemingly constant attacks on workers and unions, the teachers of the state of West Virginia have taken up the union mantle of strength in numbers. We should expect nothing more from the people of West Virginia – we have long been at the frontlines of unionization and workers’ rights. Many of these teachers are the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the coal miners, steel mill workers and plant operators that helped to build our state and worker protections.
Teachers and school staff are often overlooked and seemingly forgotten by the powers that be. Each year we call on our teachers to do more and more to care for and teach our children. I don’t know a single teacher that got into the profession for the money. They knew that they were not going to get rich and they didn’t care. They believed, however, that they would be able to support their own families through their work. For decades at least, they could count on decent benefits like health insurance and retirement. In a state that needs good teachers and skilled workers to move into the next phase of the world economy we should be doing everything we can to encourage more people to take on the tremendous task of teaching our kids and preparing them. We should make being a teacher one of the best jobs possible in West Virginia.
The schools in West Virginia really have done more than we can ask of them for the support that they receive. West Virginia, while paying teachers the 48th best salary in the country, continuously turn out high graduation rates. How do we repay those teachers? We keep putting off pay raises and we enact and suggest health insurance benefits plans that will cripple and break them. Make no mistake, the teachers of this state deserve far more pay than we can afford to give them. The current situation, however, is not only about raises. The PEIA funding issues which presented most teachers with the prospect of losing thousands of dollars out of their pay is a major problem and a symptom of a bigger issue. PEIA issues would have been addressed years ago to avoid staggering premium increases and benefit reductions. Pay raises would have happened gradually over a period of time. Short term solutions like “freezing” benefits until after the next election are simply not enough. Teachers demand and have earned long-term plans to stabilize the entire system not only for themselves, but for state workers as a whole. Whether those funds come from sports betting, the surplus revenue or the oil and gas severance tax, the prospect of supporting our state workers and teachers really shows where our priorities lie. I am proud of the teachers of this state for standing up and taking the fight to the legislature that has left them behind and tells them to just smile and be happy. I am proud of the teachers for taking on a so called “illegal” strike and standing up for themselves. I am proud of the people that I trust to educate my children. The future of West Virginia depends upon the strength of our school system and I hope and pray that the government steps up to the plate to make meaningful changes to protect our schools.
Through pounding rain, wind and muddy conditions, teachers across West Virginia are standing up after being put on the back burner and forgotten for years. In a time where there are seemingly constant attacks on workers and unions, the teachers of the state of West Virginia have taken up the union mantle of strength in numbers.