Strike showed community unity

However you might refer to it, the strike (or work stoppage or walkout) by West Virginia’s teachers will go down in history.

It was only the second time in the state’s history such a mass walkout of educators has taken place. The first time, in 1990, didn’t include all 55 counties, though.

The state’s educators had a point to make, and they made it.

There certainly were those who spoke against the strike, especially as it went on. There were those who wanted educators back in the classroom, to teach the kids, and just have faith that legislators would figure it out and get the job done.

Others encouraged teachers to keep going down their chosen path.

No matter what side you may have leaned toward, this strike brought out a great deal of passion in a lot of people.

This past Monday, I drove up to the Rockefeller Career Center for a work session Hancock County Superintendent Tim Woodward had announced the day before.

The idea was to plan for safe locations where parents could drop off their kids and know they would be supervised, have a meal and some time to play.

I expected to see a group of people, but as I pulled up, I saw the parking lot was almost full.

People continued to stream in after the workshop began, with the crowd filling the meeting room and spilling out into the hallway.

Again, there were a couple of people there who asked why teachers just didn’t go back to work, but most there — teachers, parents, community volunteers — were there to figure out ways to make sure students were occupied in the event the strike were to continue any longer.

There were plans for food services, activities, socialization and more.

Similar plans already had been made in Brooke County, with churches, fire houses and other community buildings opening their doors.

During the strike itself, groups such as CHANGE Inc. provided food for students, with pickup locations set up throughout our two counties.

Teachers I spoke to graciously talked about all the residents who dropped off food for them while on the picket lines.

I even heard about a teacher organization from San Francisco ordering pizzas to be delivered to those teachers spending time at the Capitol while the Legislature was discussing the issue of pay raises.

It was a difficult issue, and a lot of information to absorb. There was something new every day, and no one ever knew for certain what the outcome would be.

Through it all, though, it showed some of the best of human nature in the way much of the community came together.

It went well beyond the typical car horn honks as people drove by picket lines.

To hear about people bringing food to the teachers, to see people give up their own time to spend with the kids, to hear of those community organizations opening their doors to provide a location or a meal, it showcases just how close our residents can be when the time comes and the need arises.

I was able to see social media posts from around the state, whether through people in our local towns, friends or other journalists.

Not since the days of the last great steel rallies have I seen such large groups of people working together for a common cause, with entire communities standing behind them.

I often say how being a part of the Weirton community, you have numerous opportunities to see the best of humanity. We have organizations which work to help those in need. We have residents who step up to assist their neighbors. We have those who will stop to lend a hand to complete strangers.

The events of the last couple weeks show that it’s not just a Weirton thing.

It’s a West Virginia thing.

When the time is right, and the cause is just, West Virginians will stand united.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

COMMENTS