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Why She Went On Strike

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This interview with a striking teacher in West Virginia is excellent:

They told us that essentially if you weren’t a single person, if you had a family plan, your health insurance was going to rise substantially. As a West Virginia teacher — and I’ve been teaching 10 years — I only clear right under $1,300 every two weeks, and they’re wanting to take $300 more away for me. But they tell me it’s O.K., because we’re going to give you a 1 percent pay raise. That equals out to 88 cents every two days.

They implemented Go365, which is an app that I’m supposed to download on my phone, to track my steps, to earn points through this app. If I don’t earn enough points, and if I choose not to use the app, then I’m penalized $500 at the end of the year. People felt that was very invasive, to have to download that app and to be forced into turning over sensitive information.

This mandatory fitness tracking is the kind of policy that the term “neoliberal” should be reserved to actually describe. It’s invasive, it constitutes a hoop that will cost a lot of people money, and the chances that it will actually improve health outcomes strikes me as pretty remote.

Go365 was thrown out. Of course they decided to give a freeze [on insurance rates], and I think people thought that might be enough. But we understand that this is an election year. They can freeze it right now, but what happens after the election? The feeling is, we have to get this fixed, and we have to get it fixed now.

What compelled you to strike?

I take care of the bills in my family and knew I can’t afford it, I can’t. I have two children, I live paycheck to paycheck. When I realized that they were taking hundreds of dollars and then they tried to tell me they were giving me a pay raise of 1 percent, I knew I can’t just sit back. I can’t be complacent, something has to change.

We went to the Capitol on Feb. 2, we stood in solidarity, and they would not talk to us.
When we walked out of there, my husband looked at me and he said, “I feel so defeated.” They didn’t listen to anything that we had to say.

We were just walking silently from the Capitol and one teacher said, “Guys, we’re really going to have to strike.” At that point, I knew.

Is West Virginia going to turn blue again anytime soon? No. But 1)individual victories by workers remain possible, and 2)the next Democratic government has a responsibility to expand public health insurance to the maximum extent possible, whether or not it will bring short-term benefits in any particular jurisdiction.

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