Teacher Strikes and Unions

Teacher Strikes and Unions


In West Virginia, the state capitol filled with men and women chanting for their rights. Teachers all over the state wanted higher wages, and they decided that they would do whatever it would take to achieve this goal. Teachers would begin by walking out of the classroom in the middle of the day, but that was not getting the attention they wanted. Their cause soon required school closures all over the state. Soon, there were no teachers in the classroom. Instead, they wore red and black, and chanted at the state capitol, fighting for higher wages.

During February, teachers all over the state of W. Va. were part of a state-wide strike for higher wages and better benefits. What happened inside the classrooms while teachers walked the picket line?

During the course of the strike, schools in all 55 counties were shut down. These schools were forced to close their doors as thousands of teachers chanted on the steps of the state capitol.

The teachers asked for two things: a 5% pay increase and lower costs for health insurance. Teachers kept their foot down when a 4% pay increase was negotiated. It was an all-or-nothing type of deal. There was no negotiating, just a specific pay increase, plain and simple.

Teachers refused to return to the classroom until they were finally granted their 5% increase. The strike finally ended when governor Jim Justice signed the bill and granted the teachers their pay increase.

Discoveries have explained that these teacher strikes were actually illegal though. It is unlawful for public employees to engage in a strike. So, what kept these hard-pressed teachers on the picket lines? And how were they able to keep their jobs?

Teacher unions allow for strikes in the first place and are set in place to protect their workers. They protect their rights, and fight for the general well-being of the unionized individual. Since these teachers were a part of a union, they were able to perform these strikes without termination from their positions looming over their heads.

The strike and teacher unions cohesively allowed teachers to reach their goal, but would it work in all states? Since the strike in West Virginia, other states such as Okla. are chattering about their own potential strike.

And where does Miss. stand? Mississippi is one of the lowest paying states for teachers. Would the strikes work here, too?

Cassie Cox, a Theatre and Gifted English teacher at Southaven High School, says in regards to the W. Va. strikes, “I don’t know that this would work in every situation. I know that many states have teacher unions who would have to band together for something like this to be successful. I’m not sure how this would play out in a state like Mississippi. Teacher unions are ranked by state from strongest to weakest. The teacher unions in Miss., are ranked number 48, which is one of the weakest. This means that even if unionized teachers were to strike here in Miss., the unions are not strong enough to do as much good as W. Va., which was ranked number 13.”

The fact of the matter is, without being in a union, teachers are not protected if they wanted to strike. The number of unionized teachers in Miss. is low, so there is not a strong possibility for the same outcome as West Virginia.

West Virginia reached their goals. Now we’ll just have to see how teachers in other states continue to react.