Teachers strike, and we should support them

Drew Taylor

While the debate about school safety continues in wake of recent school shooting scares, another story involving schools has possibly gone unnoticed by much of the country. Over the past week, teachers in West Virginia have been on strike in protest for higher wages and better benefits. Despite the governor and union leaders making a deal to increase the pay of teachers on Wednesday, teachers have remained on strike, waiting until the deal is official in the state legislature.

The teachers will remain on strike, as the state Senate voted for a lower increase than negotiated.

The strike began on February 22nd, after West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed a bill for a two percent increase in salary this summer, with a one percent increase in 2020 and 2021. Teacher salary has been an issue for West Virginians, as the average pay of a teacher in West Virginia ranks 48th in the country, only ahead of Mississippi, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.

However, teacher unions have been against this, claiming that the increases would not help to cover the increase of cost of living in West Virginia. They have also shown disappointment in the lack of attention given to other areas, such as the proposed increase in monthly premiums for teacher’s health insurance.

This teacher strike can be a good example of why unions are still necessary in the 21st century, particularly teachers unions. Teachers often underpaid, overworked, and their tasks don’t end when the bell rings. I’ve seen this myself, as the child of two educators. There’s a lot of work and hours, and even personal money, put into the job. It is important to keep themselves from being exploited.

This doesn’t go just for teachers, though. It goes for auto workers, nurses, steelworkers, and basically every other industry one can think of. There will be people looking to exploit your labor, and it is important to support workers in all of those industries.

Something that has been shocking throughout this strike, however, is the lack of media coverage surrounding it. Except for a few small newspaper articles and some mentions on cable news, it feels like it isn’t getting the attention that it deserves.

Despite the hundreds of profiles we’ve seen in the last year in major outlets about “small town America” and the people in them, the strike has not gotten nearly the publicity it should. It’s unfortunate, because it is more important, as well as a much more interesting story than another interview with someone from Kansas who voted for Trump or why a white supremacist believes in their ideology.

The teacher strike in West Virginia is important to teachers and all workers, not just in their state, but the country as well. We should all have solidarity with them.

Drew Taylor is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].