West Virginia schools were supposed to be open today after a one-day cooling off period.
They are still closed.
After a promise by the governor of a one-year 5% pay raise for teachers but no promises on the sky-rocketing cost of health care, the offer did not satisfy thousands of teachers who had already been willing to challenge the law banning strikes and had walked off the job last week.
In 2016, when the West Virginia legislature ended collective bargaining in the state, the current chaos impacting students, families and teachers could have been predicted.
The West Virginia law against public employee strikes and without a legal process to resolve differences, the 2016 law has come back to bite West Virginia’s political leadership in the ass.
Yes. Workers can always withdraw their labor.
Nobody can force us to work.
But the process of collective bargaining – including the right to strike – gives labor greater power to define and negotiate for their interests.
Illinois is a good example.
Prior to 1983 public employees had no state law that allowed for collective bargaining.
For years the state’s public employee unions rejected any collective bargaining law that included a ban on the right to strike.
In 1983 the environment had changed. Mayor Richard Daley, who had always opposed public employee collective bargaining because it undermined patronage, was dead. Harold Washington, who was pro-labor, was Mayor. Democrats controlled both state house chambers and there was a moderate Republican governor who also aligned with the state’s public employee unions.
Collective bargaining laws – including the right to strike – were enacted.
The number of strikes by public employees decreased because the right to collective bargaining gave labor a voice in the process.
The teachers in West Virginia have demonstrated great courage and militancy in the face of difficult odds.
But kids are not in school.
Teachers are not in classrooms.
And the political leaders in West Virginia have nobody to blame but themselves.