Lessons, Successes, Failures of the West Virginia Teachers Strike

Source:  Black Agenda Report
March 8 2018

west virginia teachers strike

The 9 day West Virginia school strike was a long time coming, and contains a number of useful, if not new lessons.

The first not at all new lesson is that successful strikes are possible wherever an overwhelming majority of the workforce is committed to it, whether or not those worker are in a “right to work ” state, and whether or not the strike is endorsed by their union if they have a union at all. Neither of West Virginia’s two teachers unions endorsed the strike, and the leaders of both unions initially and repeatedly attempted to “settle” it for far less than the striking workers demanded.

A second lesson was that illegal strikes can succeed. Although a teacher walkout was explicitly prohibited by state law Governor Jim Justice dared not seek an injunction ordering teachers and others back to work because they enjoyed far too much public support. The largely successful New York City transit worker strike of December 2005 was illegal too, but workers achieved most of their objectives, despite the fact that the union leadership was forced by the authorities to resign and spend a few days in jail.

A third not at all new lesson was that all for one and one for all solidarity is key to successful strikesBack in 1990 when teachers struck, school bus drivers were taking children right through their picket lines into the schools. This time the teachers went out along with the janitors, the bus drivers, the food service workers all demanding a 5% across the board pay increase, not just for school employees but for all state workers, along with a fix on ballooning health care premiums, out of pocket costs and an end to invasive and humiliating requirements for continued health insurance. When state legislators offered raises to the teachers alone they were emphatically hooted down.

A fourth lesson is that what happens in a workplace isn’t confined to that workplace. A worker is a whole person, a renter or mortgage debtor, a student loan debtor, a member of this or that church or other formation. People carry their home concerns into the workplace, and their workplace concerns home. They don’t stop being parents or residents of communities poisoned and pillaged by greedy extractive industries when they go to work. Part of the popularity of the teachers’ cause was their demand that the urgently needed health insurance fix come from a tax on the energy companies which have ravaged the state’s land and people the last dozen decades.

A fifth lesson, again not a new one at all is that in a wildcat strike the union officials may want to prematurely settle. The West Virginia strike was organized from the bottom up, not by union leaders. Beginning the second day of the strike union leaders and the governor’s office were already announcing its conclusion, the first time based upon a mere handshake with the governor. Teachers at the state capital and impromtu meetings in malls and other locations around the state rejected these premature deals. The final back-to-work agreement was distributed to workers, according to the World Socialist Website via robocall before the governor had signed any legislation.

What the teachers got, what they didn’t get.

What the teachers got was a 5% pay increase for all state workers, from cops to secretaries to janitors, assuming these are not outsourced as they are in most places nowadays, and a guarantee that the state will deduct union dues from paychecks, along with the understanding that unions are free to use these funds for political purposes.

They didn’t come close to achieving a tax on energy companies to fix the health insurance mess. They settled for representation on a so-called “task force” which is supposed to look into fixes for the state’s public employee health plan, and report back in October, theoretically in time for teachers and their allies to punish uncooperative parties at the polls. Some teachers called it a sellout.

But with two nearly interchangeable parties of capital in power, the outlook is far from rosy. Both houses of West Virginia’s legislature are dominated by Republicans, and most politicians of both parties are deep in the pockets of global corporations that shear off, grind up and sift entire mountain tops for the remaining coal, that poison the state’s water extracting shale and natural gas and which dump their toxic leavings pretty much wherever they please.

Governor Jim Justice is a billionaire scofflaw, the richest man in the state with holdings in resorts, energy companies and more who switched to the Democratic party to win the governorship in 2015, and rejoined the Republican party in 2017 to get on the Donald Trump train. Both West Virginia teachers unions endorsed Justice in his run for governor. A 2016 NPR investigation identified $15 million in delinquent taxes and fines owed by the governor’s mining companies in six states including $6.8 million in Kentucky and $4.7 million in West Virginia. By contrast, in many states (including Virginia but not West Virginia) nonpayment of state taxes or delinquent student loans will get your drivers license and/or professional license suspended.

The governor says the first year’s pay increase can be paid for with money the state already has, though it may be “prudent” to cut Medicaid. Republican legislative leaders however, declare that any pay increase must come from cutting money the state provides to local governments and Medicaid, which pays for the medical care of many poor children in West Virginia schools. Sick children, the poor and disabled do not possess the weapon of the strike. So there’s that. If some teachers feel both victorious and a bit sold out at the same time it’s easy to understand.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that union membership may be rising in West Virginia, as many who did not see the need for a union before this, or those who imagined they couldn’t afford to pay union dues are reconsidering. Though union leadership seemed more intent on ending the strike quickly than achieving its goals, union members in local schools figured prominently in the strike and the efforts leading up to it.

Last month, during oral arguments of the Janus case before the Supreme Court, labor lawyers declared that union recognition in a way, is the price for labor peace. When employers declare war upon organized workers, they should not be surprised when workers do the same to them, with or without the sanction of their unions. The fight is far from over in West Virginia, and teachers in Kentucky, Ohio and Oklahoma are considering the possibility of statewide job actions. In Oklahoma City the school board and superintendent are on record backing teachers if they decide to strike for more pay and better funding for schools there.

2018 is an election year, and there is little doubt that Democrats will attempt to harness and divert as much of this energy into the safe channels of their billionaire funded party, as they did in Wisconsin back in 2011. Starving and de-funding public education and breaking teacher unions have been the bipartisan project of both parties for a long time now. There are sharp struggles ahead.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and serves on the state committee of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA, the company town of Lockheed-Martin the Pentagon’s biggest contractor and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Cuba: ALBA-TCP´s strategic and urgent task is to defend Venezuela

Source:  Radio Havana Cuba
March 5 2018

raul march 2018 in caracas.jpg

Caracas, March 5 (RHC)– Cuban President Raul Castro has said that the joint defense of Venezuela is the strategic and urgent task of the ALBA regional bloc.

Speaking at the 15th Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of the Americas –People´s Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) held in Caracas Monday, the Cuban leader added that the threats against peace and stability in Venezuela represent a threat to regional stability and peace.

“We proclaim our unwavering support for the Bolivarian Revolution and the civic-military union of its people, led by its president Nicolás Maduro,” he stressed.

In his address, the Cuban president condemned the unilateral measures and the external interference against the Bolivarian and Chavista process that threatens the dialogue among Venezuelans.

He also criticized the exclusion of President Nicolás Maduro from the 8th Summit of the Americas, scheduled for next April in Lima, Peru.  “This illegal decision is unacceptable and interventionist, and it takes the hemisphere back to stages that seemed to be long gone.”

He mentioned how the 19th century Monroe Doctrine, which claims Latin American and Caribbean countries colonial subordination to Washington, is being proclaimed as valid and relevant by the current resident of the White House.

The Cuban leader also rejected current attempts underway to dismantle regional integration mechanisms, as well as the unconventional war methods used by Washington since 1999 to subdue the Venezuelan revolution.

“The only solution to the problems of Venezuelans is in the hands of Venezuelans themselves,” he said.

In concluding his remarks, Raul Castro alluded to his forthcoming departure as Cuban president, and insisted on the need for unity among the countries of the region.

“I speak on behalf of our Revolution and our people, as any other Cuban patriot will do tomorrow from this position, always knowing, as Fidel believed, that our peoples have no future without unity, without integration.”

The Cuban leader ratified Cuba´s loyalty to the legacy of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5, 2013.

Edited by Jorge Ruiz Miyares

Have St Lucia, Guyana and Jamaica become the “Three Blind Mice” of CARICOM?




All over the world today, the United States Department of State and the US’s billionaire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (former CEO of the rapacious American multi-national oil corporation Exxon Mobil) are boasting about the coup that they pulled off in engineering the so-called “Lima Group of States” (inclusive of the CARICOM states of St Lucia and Guyana) into issuing an international Declaration that attacks and vilifies the socialist Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, as well as the success of Tillerson’s recent diplomatic effort to enlist Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the government of Jamaica in the USA’s ongoing crusade against Venezuela.

These recent happenings are all part and parcel of a well coordinated strategy on the part of the Donald  Trump administration to cause maximum disruption and subversion in our sister Caribbean country of Venezuela in the lead up to Venezuela’s critical Presidential election of April 2018.

And so, one is forced to query why three of our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states — Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Guyana — would remove themselves from our collective CARICOM umbrella, and instead associate themselves with this sinister “big power” campaign of subversion against a fellow developing country that is trying desperately hard to keep its precious natural resources out of the dirty hands of greedy North American multi-national corporations.

The US Department of State website is telling us that St. Lucia and Guyana are members of something called “The Lima Group of states” !

allen chastanet st lucia2.jpgThe questions therefore arise:- Do the citizens of St. Lucia and Guyana know anything at all about this “Lima Group of States” that their governments have joined? Was any of this discussed with the people of St. Lucia and Guyana by Prime Minister Alan Chastanet and President David Granger respectively?

Is it the case that St. Lucia, Guyana, and Jamaica (under theDavid-A.-Granger guyana.jpg relatively conservative, right-wing administrations that now govern those countries) have been transformed into myopic puppet states of Donald  Trump’s USA? Have these three once proud pillars of Caribbean nationhood become the “three blind mice” of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) ?

Andrew HolnessMessers Chastanet, Holness, and Granger are all relative newcomers to Caribbean political leadership, but surely they must be aware that one of the fundamental objectives of our Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as enshrined in Article 4 of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, is the coordination and the collective articulation of the foreign policy of our 15 CARICOM member states, and “the achievement of a greater measure of……..effectiveness of Member States in dealing with third States, groups of States, and entities of any description”.

It is therefore inexcusable that these three conservative right-wing political leaders have snubbed and disregarded our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and our forty year commitment to formulating and pursuing a collective foreign policy, for by so doing they have severely tarnished the international image of CARICOM, and have done serious damage to the morale, stability and effectiveness of our regional organization.

And what should be particularly distressing for the people of St. Lucia, Guyana, and Jamaica is these three neophyte heads of government are seemingly unaware that each of their nations possess outstanding records as architects and champions of the CARICOM determination to formulate and articulate a collective foreign policy, and to adopt a unified CARICOM position in our dealings with the “great” powers of this world.

Who can forget the historic and critical role played by Guyana’s Forbes Burnham in crafting the Treaty of Chaguaramas and its commitment to a collective foreign policy?

Likewise,who can forget Michael Manley’s collaboration with the said Forbes Burnham in insisting that CARICOM formulate and deploy a common foreign policy in relation to such critical issues as support for the anti-apartheid /anti-imperialist movements of Southern Africa; the Caribbean’s engagement in negotiations at Lome for a new relationship with the then European Economic Community; and advocacy for the establishment of a New International Economic Order?

And who could fail to acknowledge that it was in the island of St. Lucia in July of 1974 that the heads of Government of the newly established CARICOM first enunciated the principle that our nations would embark on such wider hemispheric matters as crafting relationships with the Central American Common Market, the Andean Common Market, and the nation of Mexico, NOT as individual states, but on a collective, region-wide CARICOM basis !

In light of the foregoing, all right-thinking citizens of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) should rebuke these three errant heads of Government and deprecate the folly that they have engaged themselves in.

Our Caribbean has a proud tradition of standing up and courageously speaking truth to power. It was — after all — four small Caribbean states that — in 1972 — defied the mighty United States of America and broke the diplomatic isolation of the nation of Cuba. We took a stance based on PRINCIPLE, and the rest of the hemisphere followed us.

That is the type of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that we must remain committed to being!

We must therefore NOT permit our unity as a regional community to be fractured, nor must we allow ourselves to be led down a path of unprincipled, self-seeking, and undignified behavior by any number of “blind mice”.


Related:  Time to Re-visit Michael Manley’s path – A Vision for Jamaica

The cornerstone of community participation

Source:  Granma

February 12 2018

People’s Councils are the true, absolutely democratic authority in Cuban neighborhoods, the essential level of the socialist state’s People’s Power system, an idea Fidel outlined, describing these bodies as the cornerstone of community participation

people's council in cuba

Military parade for the 60th anniversary of the Revolutionary Armed Photo: Anabel Díaz

People’s Councils are the true, absolutely democratic authority in Cuban neighborhoods, the essential level of the socialist state’s People’s Power system, an idea Fidel outlined, describing these bodies as the cornerstone of community participation in the resolution of problems.

esteban lazo feb 2018.jpgThis concept was highlighted by Esteban Lazo Hernández, president of the National Assembly of People’s Power, during a recent meeting held in the province, to evaluate a training seminar for presidents of these bodies, with a view toward improving their effectiveness.

Omayda Gómez, president of the Luisa People’s Council in the municipality of Jovellanos, said she considered the training sessions excellent, with much information shared, noting that the exchange of experiences was very useful, especially for those who are taking on the responsibility for the first time.

Also emphasized was the importance of accountability reports presented regularly to the population in neighborhood meetings.

Lazo recommended that presidents of People’s Councils conduct diagnostic investigations and surveys to identify the main problems in every community and their causes. He noted that the coming period will be an extraordinary one, given the international situation and the number of changes underway in the country at this time, emphasizing the importance of staying informed and maintaining unity.

He stressed that the coming general elections must serve as a demonstration of the people’s unity and the Revolution’s strength, in the face of attempts by the U.S. government to undermine Cuba’s sovereignty.

A call to our combative people

Source:  Granma
September 11 2017

Raúl Castro Ruz | internet@granma.cu

We face the recovery with the example of Comandante en Jefe de la Revolución Cubana, Fidel Castro Ruz, who, with his unwavering confidence in victory and iron will, taught us that nothing is impossible.

hurricane irma el malecon.jpg

Hurricane Irma, with its destructive power, battered our island for 72 hours, beginning the morning of September 8 until this Sunday afternoon. With winds that surpassed 250 kilometers per hour on occasion, it crossed the north of the country from Baracoa – hit hard by another phenomenon of this type almost a year ago – to the outskirts of Cárdenas. However, given its immense size, practically no province was spared its effects.

Described by experts as the largest ever to form in the Atlantic, this meteorological phenomenon caused severe damage to the country, which, precisely because of its scope, has yet to be quantified. A preliminary view shows evidence of an impact on housing, the electrical system, and agriculture.

hope amid destructionPhoto: Jose M. Correa

It also struck some of our principal tourist destinations, but damage will be repaired before the beginning of the high season. We have on hand for this the human resources and materials needed, given that this constitutes one of the principal sources of income in the national economy.

These have been difficult days for our people, who, in a few hours time, have seen what was constructed with great effort hit by a devastating hurricane. Images from the last few hours speak for themselves, as does the spirit of resistance and victory of our people that is regenerated with every adversity.

The unity of Cubans has prevailed

In these difficult circumstances, the unity of Cubans has prevailed, the solidarity among neighbors, discipline in response to instructions issued by the National Civil Defense General Staff and Defense Councils at all levels, the professionalism of specialists at the Institute of Meteorology, the immediacy of our communications media and its journalists, the support of mass organizations, as well as the cohesion of National Defense Council leadership bodies. Special mention for all of our women, including leaders of the Party and government, who with aplomb and maturity provided leadership and confronted the difficult situation.

The days that are coming will be ones of much work, during which the strength and indestructible confidence in the Revolution of Cubans will again be demonstrated. This is not a time to mourn, but to construct again that which the winds of Irma attempted to destroy.

With organization, discipline, and the coordination of all our structures, we will move forward as we have done on previous occasions. No one should be fooled; the task we have before us is huge, but with a people like ours, we will win the most important battle: recovery.

At this critical moment, the Cuban Workers’ Federation and the National Association of Small Farmers, along with all other mass organizations, must redouble efforts to eliminate as quickly as possible the trail left by this destructive event.

One principle remains immovable: the Revolution will leave no one unprotected and measures are already being adopted to ensure that no Cuban family is left to their fate.

As has been customary every time a meteorological phenomenon has struck us, there have been many expressions of solidarity received from all parts of the world. Heads of state and government, political organizations, and friends in solidarity organizations have expressed the desire to help us, whom we thank in the name of more than eleven million Cuban men and women.

fidel sierra maestra.pngWe face the recovery with the example of Comandante en Jefe de la Revolución Cubana, Fidel Castro Ruz, who, with his unwavering confidence in victory and iron will, taught us that nothing is impossible. In these difficult hours, his legacy makes us strong and unites us.

Raúl Castro Ruz

Havana, September 10, 2017

Gathering of Social Movements and Political Forces “FOR PEACE, UNITY AND THE INTEGRATION OF OUR AMERICA”


V-Cumbre-Celac.jpgThe social and popular organizations, including trade unions, peasant, youth, student and organizations of solidarity with the peoples in Dominican Republic, call to all organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean to the Meeting of Social Movements and Political Forces “For Peace, Unity and the Integration of our America”

The Meeting of Social Movement and Political Forces will take place prior to the Fifth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and the Caribbean (CELAC). The purpose of the event is to raise our voices against imperialism, to demand sovereignty and self-determination and to defend peace, unity and the integration of our great country. The event will provide a space to reaffirm the popular mobilization and solidarity with all just causes that we defend.

As a result of the discussions that we will engage in, a statement will be issued and will be delivered to the presidents attending the V Summit of the CELAC, as our contribution to the preservation of the principles of community and as a contribution to peace, unity and the integration of our America.

Articulación Nacional Campesina

Justicia Climática

Comité Solidaridad con Venezuela

Movimiento Caamañista

Confederación Nacional Unidad Sindical-CNUS

Centro de Solidaridad para el Desarrollo de la Mujer, CE MUJER

Frente Estudiantil Flavio Suero-FEFLAS

Movimiento de Mujeres Trabajadoras

Asociación Nacional de Enfermería-ASONAEN

Fuerza de la Revolución- FR

Cloc-Via Campesina

La Multitud

Confederación Nacional Mujeres  del Campo-CONAMUCA

Partido Comunista del Trabajo- PCT

Juventud Caribe

Fundación Francisco Alberto Caamaño

Campaña Dominicana de Solidaridad con Cuba-CDSC.

Unión Trabajadores Cañeros- UTC

Fundación Máximo Gómez

Gathering of Social Movements and Political Forces
For the Integration and Unity of Latin American and the Caribbean

When:  January 23 and 24
Place: Pedro Mir Library, Autonomous University

Contact: Ivan Rodriguez
Phone. 809-962-5026
Email: leticiaprimero@yahoo.es


Monday, January 23

9:00 a.m.  Welcoming and general introduction of the meeting.
10:00 a.m. Panel (3):

  • Topic: The sovereignty of the peoples of our America
  • Topic: Human rights for all men and women
  • Topic: Peace, unity and the integration of Latin American and the Caribbean

12:30 p.m. Lunch
3:00 p.m.  Approval of the Declaration in support of CELAC
8:30 p.m.  Cultural Gala

Tuesday, Janurary 24

9:30 a.m.  Solidarity Event

Latin American left looks to strengthen unity in Nicaragua

Source: Granma
January 8 2017

by Redacción Internacional | informacion@granma.cu

Representatives of various left political parties and groups from across Latin America are meeting in Nicaragua, reviewing an official proposal to strengthen unity among progressive movements in the region

President Daniel Ortega and first lady  Rosario Murillo greet supporters during celebrations to mark the 37th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution at the Juan Pablo II square in Managua

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo representing the Sandinista Front For National Liberation (FSLN) won the country’s presidential elections last November 6. Photo: el 19 digital

Managua.—Representatives of various leftist political parties and groups from across Latin America are meeting in Nicaragua, reviewing an official proposal to strengthen unity among progressive movements in the region.

According to sources closely linked to the event, today, Monday January 9, participants will consider proposals for the Consensus of Our America – a programmatic platform designed to combat actions by regional neoliberal oligarchies – which will be presented to the Sao Paulo Forum working group, according to Prensa Latina.

Unity vital in the present situation

After a year which saw Argentina elect a conservative government, a parliamentary coup staged in Brazil, and hostile media campaign against Venezuela, it is vital for social movements to unite, given such a complex state of affairs, emphasized event organizers.

At least 40 delegates from groups from over 10 countries are scheduled to attend the meeting.

The Sao Paulo Forum

The Sao Paulo Forum was founded by Brazil’s Workers Party in 1990 in the city of the same name, to unite efforts by leftist parties and movements in response to the ideological rupture created by the fall of the socialist camp in Europe and the advance of neoliberalism in countries across Latin American and Caribbean.

With Comandante Daniel Ortega set to be inaugurated on January 10 – after winning Nicaragua’s presidential elections for a third term on November 6, 2016, with 72.5% of the vote – leaders and representatives of political parties and social movements will come together in Managua, where from January 11-12, the meeting of the Sao Paulo Forum working group will take place.