Thursday, March 08, 2018
Walking the line in West Virginia
My life as a union thug was totally uneventful. I don't remember there being pressure to join, but I'm sure I felt some among the faculty and staff of a suburban high school in Phoenix, where I taught English--and loved it, and where I joined the union.
I don't remember union meetings, if there were any. I don't remember being dissatisfied with working conditions or salaries, or what we used to call "fringe" benefits (before medical care went up in a skyrocket). I don't remember anything about my two-years in the union, other than a newsletter once a month. And, oddly enough, what I remember best about that broadside is a sickly feeling from triumphalism surrounding mention of those schools whose valiant teachers walked out when negotiations tanked.
My dad disliked unions, hated them. He was enough of an elitist to believe ordinary blue-collar workers needed smart people to help them find their way through life. He was a Republican from the soul, and he believed in the authority of management, period. Regulations on corporations?--creeping socialism. Real Americans cut loose free private enterprise to let it make all of us rich.
He was too much a moralist to admire Trump, but he'd have to swallow hard to cross him.
I never picketed anything, never protested lousy pay, never drove downtown and chanted in the statehouse. I wasn't much of a union man.
But I became far more sympathetic in my years in Christian education, when abiding by the will of management was somehow coordinated with the will of the Lord. In Christian education, there was no union--thus, no leverage. Successive administrations regularly appointed a faculty-salary committee, then pretty much set their own agenda because somewhere in Leviticus the Bible makes clear that administrations make righteous decisions.
Which left a faculty powerless.
That's why my heart swells at what happened in West Virginia. I haven't been a union member for decades, but I appreciate the fact that in this Republican era those teachers went to war with the statehouse. It's easy for "management" to assume salaries should be the first item of business when the books don't appear to balance.
Those West Virginia teachers did it. Solidarity forever. Many of them are descended from the mine workers Donald Trump claims to love. When they walked out of their classrooms--and stayed out--they were doing what comes natural to old line union stiffs.
And then there's the porn star. Trump claims he and a couple dozen other women accusers are all just dirty, rotten, filthy liars. Consensual sex or p----y grabbing makes little difference to many, many women. They've got his number, despite his denials; and that's why thousands more, nation-wide are running for office right now for the first time.
At Phoenix Greenway High, I was a member of an English Department, twenty strong, seventeen of whom were women. That West Virginia school strike was ginned up by loads and loads of school teachers, women, sick to death of flipping burgers on weekends to support their families.
Trickle-down Republicans need to be reminded of a line from an ancient play by William Congreve, a line that would be perverse if it weren't entirely relevant right now--"hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. . ."
I'm sure they're all happy to be back in the classrooms, men and women. But what they did--how they fought, how they won--is an inspiration.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:26 AM