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The West Virginia teacher strike represents a return to public worker unionism's radical roots.
A bus during the 1974 transit workers' strike in Washington, DC.
Washington Area Spark / Flickr
The ongoing teachers’ strike in West Virginia is remarkable in many ways. Thousands of public workers are engaged in a grassroots rebellion, defying restrictions on their right to strike. They’ve forced the state’s Republican governor to grant concessions, carrying on despite an announced deal by union officials. They’ve inspired other workers to think anew about militant action, both in West Virginia and outside the state.
All of this is fitting at a time when anti-union forces are trying to turn back the clock on collective bargaining rights. The modern public employee union movement was born of struggle — the product of a great strike wave in the 1960s and 1970s. The school personnel strike in West Virginia represents a return to those militant days.
Militancy Present and Past
Teacher strikes are unlawful in West Virginia. State law does not provide for collective bargaining, and public employees have no legally recognized right to engage in work stoppages. Yet legality has a way of drifting into the background when workers organize en masse.