I wanted to go to Charleston, West Virginia, to thank the leaders of the Red4Ed Teachers Strike of 2018. Jay O’Neal of the NEA local and Fred Albert of the AFT local made it happen. I spoke on February 22, the second anniversary of the strike.

The teachers themselves were amazed by what they had done. They were outraged back then when the cost of their health insurance reduced their already meager take home pay. They met, count by county, they organized, they eventually realized they would be ignored unless they went out on strike.

Their strike wasn’t just one county or district, but the entire state. West Virginia is a right to work state. They could be fired for striking. But every superintendent closed every school and every school employee, including support staff and bus drivers, struck too.

At one point the union leaders announced a deal that included a 5% raise for teachers but not other staff, and the teachers sent them back to demand the same raise for everyone.

They won the raise but governor promised only a “commission” to study the onerous burden of health care costs. They are still waiting. The Governor, Jim Justice, is the only billionaire in the state, and he doesn’t know what it means to live paycheck to paycheck. He was elected as a Democrat, but six months after he won in 2016, he switched parties and embraced Trump.

After the raises they won, teachers’ starting pay is $37,000, and the top pay for a teacher with many years of experience and a doctorate is about $65,000 (those greedy teachers!!).

West Virginia is a poor state that has suffered through a dire opioid crisis. It has a storied history of miners’ strikes. The people I met love their state, loves it’s mountains and folkways, and are fighting for its children and its future.

The state voted for Trump, and no, he has not revived the coal industry. He has already forgotten the people of West Virginia.

Here is an account of my talk to the leaders of Red4Ed, which launched a national movement.

I met a vigorous young man who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, named Steve Smith. He explained something I never understood. Why do poor people vote for people who lie to them? He said the people of West Virginia were lied to by Democrats for decades. So they decided it was time to try the other party, which also lied to them. The winning ticket, he believes, is the one that appeals to independents and recognizes that most people don’t trust any politician to tell the truth.

A teacher added that a large part of the voting public will go for anyone who promises to stop abortion and gays. Another teacher said a large part of the voters were devoted to their guns. During the eight years that a Obama was President, many gun owners stocked up on AR-15 assault weapons because they wanted to be ready when the military came for their guns.

Seems the legislature cares more about abortion, guns, and gays than their own children or their future.