News Release

Illegal West Virginia Wildcat Strike Continues

MIKE ELK, mike.elk at gmail.com, @MikeElk
Elk has lived in West Virginia and is a member of the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild; he is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report. He previously served as senior labor reporter at POLITICO and has written for the New York Times.

He wrote the piece “West Virginia teachers stage walkout over wages and benefits” for The Guardian.

He tweeted Thursday night: “Strike will continue as Senate refuses to pass teachers pay raise measure.”

On Wednesday he wrote the piece “Rejecting W.V. Deal, Over 50 Counties Will Continue Wildcat Strike Tomorrow,” which stated: “It appears that the West Virginia teachers’ strike will last indefinitely as rank and file teachers in a majority of counties around the state have promised to continue their strike until the state legislature addresses their concerns. …

“It is also unclear if the state’s attorney general will seek an injunction against the union — or even if he would be able to, since the union leaders have actually ordered their workers back to work but the workers have not agreed to return to work.”

On Tuesday, he wrote the piece: “Settling W.V. Teachers Strike Could Hinge on Taxing Frackers“: “As the illegal wildcat statewide strike of teachers in 55 counties in West Virginia stretches into its fourth day, West Virginia Governor and billionaire coal baron Jim Justice has found himself on the defensive.

“In order to resolve the dispute, Justice will likely have to take on members of his own party, who are resisting calls to increase taxes on the natural gas industry.

“However, in Wheeling Monday night, Justice found himself on the defensive and facing boos from the crowd as he urged the union to end the strike. …

“On Tuesday, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, a backwoods Baptist preacher, gave a roaring speech, calling on West Virginians to remember their history of struggle. He called on the striking teachers to engage in civil disobedience as their ancestors had during the 1921 struggle of striking mine workers at the Battle of Blair Mountain and the 1969 strike of 40,000 coal miners, who occupied the West Virginia State Capitol.

“‘When those miners came here [in 1969], they were breaking the law [and] when those miners marched on Blair Mountain, they were breaking the law,’ Roberts told the assembled crowd during a half-hour labor sermon.

“‘This is not really a strike,’ said Cecil Roberts. ‘This is when the good people of West Virginia take back their state.’

“Despite breaking the law, the teachers have rallied near unanimous support. The West Virginia PTA voiced their support for the strikers as well.”