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Portland State University, Parsons Gallery, 506 SW Mill Street, 2nd Floor
506 SW Mill Steet
Portland, Oregon 97201, US (map)
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In West Virginia, over 33,000 teachers and school staff fought courageously for nine days, in defiance of the unions and state politicians. Their determined struggle captured the attention of workers throughout the United States and the world who identified with the fight by teachers for decent wages and an end to soaring health care costs.

Contrary to the proclamations of the unions, however, the deal reached to end the strike is not a victory for teachers. It does nothing to address teachers’ central demand—an end to escalating health care costs that effectively wipe out any pay raises. Moreover, the one-time five percent raise for public workers will be funded by deep cuts to social programs.

From the very beginning, the struggle demonstrated the chasm that separates the working class from the organizations calling themselves unions, which take workers’ dues money and do the bidding of the corporations and the state. What began in West Virginia is now expanding to other parts of the country, amidst a resurgence of class struggle internationally. To prepare for the next stage, it is vital that the essential lessons of the West Virginia strike be reviewed and assimilated.