Tuesday, March 6, 2018

West Virginia Strike Settled (maybe). Who's Paying?

This is a victory but only a partial one. If I read this right it appears the cost of the raise will be paid for not by tax increases but by cuts in medicaid and social services. In other words the teachers, workers in general and especially the poor and needy will do with less.  My guess is that the teachers did not demand that their raises come out of cuts to these programs or the wider working class in general and should make it clear they oppose this and will fight any attempt to do it. 

This is a divisive trick the employers and politicians are playing and should be opposed widely by the union leadership, rank and file and all workers, pitting one section of the working class against the other. Increased wages and benefits (getting back all they have taken from us over the past decades) must come from the rich and allocating society's wealth in a different way, ending all the wars for one.  Public sector workers and unions are under assault and having our gains come from cutting services more will work against us. These events yet again raise the need for working people to have our own party based on organized labor and our communities.

The popularity of this strike should be used to build a wider movement in the region and also to initiate further and prepare for wider strike action against any attacks on services or other sections of the working class. The teachers must not allow the bosses to blame them for cuts in services and social needs.

A goal of this struggle in West Virginia must also be to change the present concessionary and pro-market approach of the present labor leadership. It can be part of a larger struggle to transform the labor movement nationally and bring us from our isolation. Such an approach will inevitably bring us in to conflict with the present leadership that sees the market as the answer to all things but this cannot be avoided.

 This is from CNN. R Mellor

West Virginia lawmakers reach deal to give striking teachers pay raise

(CNN) West Virginia lawmakers said Tuesday morning that a deal has been reached to deliver a 5% pay raise for all state employees, including striking teachers, according to the state committee meeting on the matter.

The deal is intended to end a teachers' strike that has canceled nine consecutive school days across the state. Teachers' union representative Christine Campbell told CNN she anticipates school will back in session Wednesday if the bill is passed Tuesday in the House of Delegates and Senate.
At a legislative conference committee meeting Tuesday to resolve the issue, Republican state Sen. Craig Blair said the new deal represents the largest pay raise in state history. There will be no tax increase to offset the raise, and Blair said the government will see a $20 million reduction in spending to come out of cuts to general services and Medicaid.

"With this agreement today to reduce spending in state government, in order to give every single dollar available to our public employees, we've achieved the goal of being fiscally responsible while also getting a pay raise that will help our teachers get back in the classroom and our students back to school," said Republican Senate Majority leader Ryan Ferns, a Republican.

Public schools in 55 counties across the Mountain State were closed again Tuesday as teachers and educators demanded higher wages and better benefits, particularly for the embattled state employee health insurance program known as the Public Employee Insurance Agency, or PEIA.

West Virginia ranks 48th in the nation in terms of how much it pays its teachers, according to the National Education Association, and educators say that low pay pushes qualified teachers to leave the state.

Separately, Gov. Jim Justice agreed to set up a task force to address the state health insurance program on March 13.
Scores of teachers have gathered at West Virginia's state Capitol to ask for better pay and benefits.
Scores of teachers have gathered at West Virginia's state Capitol to ask for better pay and benefits.
The strike began February 22 when about 20,000 teachers walked out of schools in what has been a show of the strength of organized labor. Though currently limited to West Virginia, the strike has had repercussions outside the state as teachers in Oklahoma say they, too, have reached their breaking point and are considering walking off the job next month.

Yet the focus in West Virginia has remained on the teachers in the trenches, even for students who have been out of class for days.

"I wish it wouldn't have come to this and that I was still in school, but I want the teachers to get the wages that they deserve, so I'm all right with it," said Victoria Blickenstaff, a sophomore at Fairmont Senior High School in Fairmont, said before the announcement of the deal.

A legislative standoff

The West Virginia Legislature faced a standoff over how much of a pay raise to offer striking teachers and educators. A legislative conference committee had been appointed to resolve differences between bills in the House and Senate.

Last week, the governor and union leaders agreed that teachers and service personnel would receive a 5% pay raise, and the House of Delegates approved the proposal. However, Republicans in the Senate passed a bill Saturday night with a 4% raise. Union leaders said teachers wouldn't return to work until they get a 5% raise.

Over the weekend, the Legislature said the difference between the two proposals was $13 million. But the governor's office and House Finance Committee reran the numbers and now say that new projections show a difference of $6.9 million.


Marsha Feinland said...

This reminds me of a situation we had in California several years ago. The teachers were having a week-long demonstration in Sacramento. We entered the Capitol building the first day. The Union tops told us to leave at closing time. A lot of us did not. One issue was that the schools would get more money but Medicaid and the Child Health Insurance Program would be cut, specifically eliminating vision and dental health. I remember giving a speech proclaiming that I did not want to teach in a school where the children's teeth were rotting and they couldn't see, before being carted away to jail. An injury to one is an injury to all, and vice-versa.
It is hard to get any real gains for public workers without fighting for and winning a fair and just system, free from capitalist greed.

Richard Mellor said...

Thanks for this little bit of history Marsha. I hope you are well.