‘A freeze is not a fix’

I confess to having little experience with unions, but judged from a distance the developments in the West Virginia teachers strike are quite new in the modern history of organized labor. The teachers have ground the state to a halt and have gotten even the state senate to scramble for ways to yield to their demands while saving face:

On Thursday, one week into the statewide public school employee strike, which will continue Friday with public schools in all 55 counties closed, the West Virginia Senate pumped the brakes on a bill that would give teachers, school service personnel and the State Police a 5 percent raise.

Instead, Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, sent the legislation (House Bill 4145) to the Senate Finance Committee to change it and create a long-term revenue source for Public Employees Insurance Agency health coverage.

tate school employee union leaders suggested Tuesday evening, when the 5 percent raise for school employees was proposed by Gov. Jim Justice, that workers return to schools Thursday. But with the strike now continuing two days beyond what the state union heads called for, it isn’t clear what effect the proposed alternative will have on ending the strike, and it isn’t clear if any end to the strike will be unified statewide.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to meet Friday afternoon.

Growing up in the aftermath of the 1981 PATCO strikes induced me to accept Ronald Reagan’s assertion, borrowed from idol Calvin Coolidge (who made his reputation when as governor of Massachusetts he fired striking cops), that public union employees couldn’t walk out of their jobs. To fuming parents who argue that their children’s educations are endangered, I respond: teachers who live paycheck to paycheck and face the possibility of deducting three hundred dollars from a $1300 biweekly check for health insurance can’t concentrate on the basic duties of education.

As far as I know, no Democrats with national profiles have breathed a word of support.

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