A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

West Virginia Settlement

The West Virginia strike by education workers is over. It appears that labor has won a clear victory, a victory that is causing other non-collective bargaining states to consider strike action. At a time when public sector unions are nervously and desperately attempting to shore-up their solidarity to withstand the almost certain defeat in the impending Janus Case decision, the resolve of the West Virginia NEA and AFT members to put away their ancient grudges and take on the state controlled completely by conservative Republicans offers hope and inspiration to a movement that has been languishing for too long. Undoubtedly spurred on by their example, the Oklahoma Education Association, An NEA affiliate whose teachers are the lowest paid in the nation, is talking about a strike at the end of the month if their economic demands are not met.

One would expect the leadership of both the NEA and AFT to be wildly celebrating the almost inconceivable West Virginia victory. Yet, a look at the web pages of both organizations reveals a stunning silence on the subject. Ironically, both have featured pieces on the Janus Case as they both fail miserably to see in the solidarity of the West Virginia teachers, aides, cafeteria works and bus drivers the real solution to the right’s attack on our unions – vibrant unions that fight like hell for the economic welfare of their members.

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Our Strike Averse Unions

Teachers and other school personnel remain on strike in West Virginia. A deal negotiated with the governor but dependent on action by the legislature was rejected by the rank and file. Every school district in the state is closed. The editorial page of the New York Times this morning looks at this stunning example of union militancy and says, “…we can hope, these teachers can provide workers throughout the country with a powerful lesson.”

Yet, do we see any of our unions trying to teach this vital lesson? Do we see our national teacher unions trying to inspire their affiliates to see in the militant struggle of the West Virginia school workers the untapped power to demand and achieve reasonable salaries sand working conditions? No we don’t! The New York Times is more militant than our unions!

While the AFT’s Randi Weingarten put out an email Sunday night soliciting donations to a solidarity fund created for AFT-West Virginia, both the NEA and The AFT appear desperate to keep the strike localized, afraid that the militancy it represents will spread to other states where to work in the public schools is to essentially take a vow of poverty.

At a time when the two national teacher unions and their state affiliates are expecting huge membership losses from a ruling in the Janus Case that will outlaw agency fees, when both organizations have been straining to show members the value of union membership, it defies the very concept of a union to essentially ignore an example of the power that can flow from the ranks of union solidarity.

If we get the lesson to be learned from the West Virginia strike, it is essential that we support it. I’ll be contributing today to the AFT solidarity fund. I hope my readers will too. Here are the particulars. Please make checks out to: AFT-WV Solidarity Fund. Mail to: AFTWV, 1615 Washington Street E . Suite 300, Charleston WV 25311

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