A Personal Request to Support West Virginia Strikers

The union for the cafeteria and bus workers in Putnam County, West Virginia—the only county where the superintendent refused to close schools during this week's strike—is raising money to get these workers their pay. Donate here.

Though I've lived in Detroit for 44 years, my heart is still in West Virginia, where I was born and raised. When West Virginia teachers and school workers went on a winning wildcat a year ago, and touched off a wave of teacher strikes across the country, I bragged about them all over, as if it had anything to do with me.

So now my peeps have done it again! Within one day of going on strike, they forced the Republican-held legislature to back down and stop trying to bring charter schools into the state.

In 54 of the state's 55 counties, superintendents officially closed the schools when they learned of the strike plans—it was like a snow day. So teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers will get paid. (Not much—their salaries are still among the lowest in the nation.)

But in my home county, Putnam County, the superintendent refused to close the schools. Workers struck anyway. Not a bus rolled.

Now the union for the cafeteria and bus workers is raising money to get these workers their pay. To give is an act of solidarity from folks across the country, saying “We've got your backs!”

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As a graduate of Putnam County schools (Scott-Teays Elementary and Winfield High), I am thinking of Joe and Virgie Payne, the bus driver who drove me to school every day and the cafeteria lady at the high school. They were known and popular with everyone—a power couple. Their daughter Martha was salutatorian of her class and went to college. I gave money in their memory. (I never held it against Joe that he made me sit by myself on the bus for a week, once when I stuck out my tongue at him.)

I am so proud of West Virginia school employees and want them to keep leading the way for everyone across the country! Will you donate in solidarity?

Donate to the fundraiser, organized in direct coordination with the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, here.

For more on this week's strike in West Virginia, see "West Virginia Strikes Again, Defeating Privatization Bill in a Single Day" by Barbara Madeloni.

Jane Slaughter is a former editor of Labor Notes and co-author of Secrets of a Successful Organizer.

Comments

jane slaughter | 02/21/19

I asked a fellow Winfield High graduate what she remembered about Joe and Virgie Payne. She wrote, "Virgie’s biscuits were legendary. They also ran a produce stand in the summer. I liked Joe as a bus driver. He wasn’t scary like some of them."