By PCTVEA Editorial Board

Posted on: November 17, 2021

 

Solidarity.

It’s a word that means “agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest.” 

Maybe that sounds old-fashioned but right now we are in desperate need of it.

Many of us were doing just fine keeping to ourselves, staying below the radar … but things have changed and not necessarily for the better.

Those changes make it necessary for us to unite around shared concerns. 

While this is a process that will take time, the first thing we can do is simply wear Red (For Ed) on designated days.

If you are still on the fence about buying something red to wear, or putting on that union button, check out these three reasons why we are wearing Red For Ed in the PCTVEA.

  •     What is “Red for Ed” anyway?

Red for Ed is a national push for educators to stand together. 

The 2018 – 2019 school year was a watershed moment for teacher union activism nationwide. 

After decades of attacks on public education from organized and well funded anti-union and anti-public school groups operating in both the Republican and Democratic parties, teachers fought back in large numbers.

In February 2018, West Virginia teachers and school employees began wearing red to show solidarity around low pay and high healthcare costs.

This culminated in a strike that shut down every public school in the state.

The bold actions of West Virginia’s teachers inspired two other statewide teacher’s strikes in Oklahoma and in Arizona where it was described as “one of the largest political demonstrations in state history.” 

States that saw smaller but no less significant actions that school year include California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. 

As one commentator suggested in 2019, “The strikes have empowered hundreds of thousands of teachers and students, reinvigorated unions, and dramatically shifted the public narrative around the crisis facing public education.”

When we wear Red for Ed we are standing together and making our voices heard in a demonstration of unity.

These actions are part of our ongoing efforts to build higher visibility and participation in our union local.

If you are still unsure of unions, why they exist and how they can help us collectively get what we want, read on.

  • Solidarity Forever

So goes the title of an old labor song (sung to the chorus of the Battle Hymn of the Republic) whose lyrics we should remember. 

“The union makes us strong,” it continues.

Other lines from the song remind us who does the real work around here.

“Without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.”

We the teachers, paraprofessionals, office workers, janitorial, security and cafeteria staff are the backbone of a school, not administrators or politicians.

Teachers are the ones in the classroom day in and day out, expected to deliver daily inspiring lessons while also completing counterproductive busy work.

The vaunted PCTVS school district is nothing without the commitment, the bravery and the work ethic of these employees, including the members of our association.

As a nation and as a working class we have had solidarity in the past as demonstrated by the many victories they won that we still enjoy.

Without the union labor movement there would be no weekends, the eight hour day (not that we currently enjoy this one), paid holidays or vacation days.

Without the strikes of generations gone by there would be no Social Security, pensions, overtime pay, sick pay, or health insurance.

And don’t forget that things like preps and the decent salaries of our district were all brought to you by teacher’s unions. 

The point is that our (quite wealthy) employers didn’t hand these over without a fight.

“Like no place else.” 

That’s only true because people fought for it, not because of the charity of those at the top.

Otherwise we’d be paid the same salaries as any other district in the county.

If you are on the fence about joining our Red for Ed Wednesdays, remember all those trade union members that fought (some of whom died or went to jail) for the salary and benefits we now enjoy.

  • There is Power in Numbers

“There is power in unity and there is power in numbers.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

When he said these words in 1963 he may not have known that the Birmingham movement would lead directly to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

One thing he did know was that if African Americans and their allies stuck together they could defeat racist segregation.

Never let those in power, no matter how strong, let you think they are invincible.

Imagine the odds King was up against in 1963. He chose to “keep moving.” 

Ultimately he was jailed and for this he was roundly criticized in the local papers, as some people didn’t support his militancy.

Imprisoned but undeterred, he wrote detailed notes addressing his critics and outlining his strategy of nonviolent direct action in the margins of the newspaper.

These notes became the Letter from Birmingham Jail, and we teach it to our students.

King is inspiring in his individual courage but also because he knew a thing or two about organizing actions that take group courage.  

As we continue to work without a new contract three months into the school year you should know you aren’t alone.

Your association has your back and we are getting stronger.

No one is being asked to get arrested for the cause.

Just remember to wear Red for Ed every Wednesday and keep your button visible, every day.

Lastly, we need to address the fear.

You know what I’m talking about.

When we asked members to wear red and meet up in the gymnasium before the last faculty meeting only about 50 – 60 people showed up.

That’s not enough – we can do better than that.

I’ve never known a bulldog to back down from a fight.

How many stayed away because of fear, we can’t know, but it’s likely more than a few.

By showing solidarity, organizing and showing up for the fight we gain strength and power in our numbers.

It’s time to have conversations with people who might not agree with us and point out that wearing red and meeting up together is not illegal, it’s empowering.

This fight belongs to all of us – no matter how you got here.

After all, we shouldn’t allow “business as usual,” because what has been happening is very unusual and, at times, unfair.

If we don’t unite now, it will cost us in the long run.