AFT-WV Sister Speaks on Victory After Weeks Long Strike

IMG_0419Stacey Strawderman and West Virginia Teachers Talks Recent Work Stoppage For Pay Inequalities an Equal Pay Day

On Equal Pay Day, West Virginia AFT Vice President and Local 6209 President Stacy Strawderman addressed delegates on the recent work stoppage in West Virginia, and the rampant workplace inequalities faced by a predominantly female workforce. Inspiring a nationwide movement, teachers and public sector employees banded together to demand respect for women and educators in the workplace.

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Starting as a simple Facebook page, educators across the state banded together to fight for wage increases and healthcare funding. Teachers were underpaid and classrooms underfunded, with just $170 a year to stock their classrooms. In all 55 counties, teachers faced wage inequalities, stagnant pay, and increasingly substandard healthcare. Discontent mounted, but the straw that broke the camel’s back, as characterized by Strawderman, was the implementation of the Go365 health care plan. Educators began strategizing on their options as West Virginia does not grant its public-sector workers collective bargaining rights. Teachers statewide took action. “It was illegal to strike—but that didn’t stop us,” said Strawderman. With the support from WV AFT and WV Education Association (WEA), along with solidarity from their fellow union brothers and sisters, teachers and public-sector workers flooded statehouse chambers, demanding change from legislators.

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The work stoppage garnered overwhelming community support, who brought food and donations to the picket line daily. Strawderman stressed the vital role of social media, which served as an outlet for strikers to share their experiences as well as raise the general public’s awareness of the workplace injustices faced by West Virginia’s public sector employees. Schools in all 55 counties closed, and with the backing of the community, Strawderman and West Virginia’s teachers proved to the nation that teachers and public sector employees are a force to be reckoned with.  Not only did they receive a 5% raise in pay, but they proved to state legislators that teachers would no longer stand for unequal pay.

The actions of Strawderman and our brothers and sisters in West Virginia started a wave of similar movements nationwide. Organized labor as an advocate for equality has started a wave of activism that cannot be ignored. Brothers and sisters nationwide stand in solidarity to show that the inequalities faced by women in the workforce are unfair, unjust, and unacceptable.  As Strawderman puts it, we must keep that activism alive, and “ride the wave.”