International Women’s Strike USA (IWS) stands in solidarity with striking teachers in West Virginia, and looks to their struggle for inspiration. More than 20,000 teachers launched a strike for higher wages and for fully funded health benefits, that lasted into its fifth day; teachers in the state make the fifth lowest salaries in the nation, at an average of $45, 240, behind Oklahoma where teachers were recently reduced to four day work weeks so they could supplement their pay with retail and other part- time work. Teacher solidarity successfully closed all of West Virginia’s public schools, putting power behind their demands for up to a 10% wage increase, accessible health care and an end to the attacks on public education by charter school privatization.
The strike in West Virginia goes beyond a struggle for a living wage for teachers; teachers there see their role as educators and defenders of public education as crucial supports for students and communities in one of the USA’s poorest states. Prior to striking, teachers organized replacement lunches for a students, in a state where 25% of children live in poverty and many rely on free lunch and breakfast programs to eat regular meals. CNN reports that some lunches were even personally delivered by picketing teachers early in the morning before long days on line and at rallies in the state capitol. Cuts to education do not just impact teachers, but whole communities. Strikers, who are mostly women, are fighting back as working teachers, but also as leaders in their communities, as breadwinners, and as educators.
This week, women in WV are also facing attacks on abortion access including a bill to ban Medicaid funding of abortions, and an amendment to make this bill constitutional. We stand with West Virginia women’s right to reproductive control of their bodies and lives and against these attacks. This demonstration of the power and importance of social reproductive labor, and of women’s leadership and broad based solidarity in the fight against inequality, austerity and rapacious rule of the elite is exemplary of International Womens’ Strike’s vision of reviving the strike. We stand with West Virginia teachers and ask our friends, comrades and allies to support them by raising awareness and funds for teachers. With support, teachers can strike to win; with the inspiration of their victory, we can spread the movement.