CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A statewide anti-poverty organization recognized West Virginia teachers and school service personnel as its West Virginians of the year in light of the education work stoppage in February and March.
The West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition presented the honor at its annual awards ceremony Thursday in Charleston.
The organization’s mission is to ensure West Virginia is the best place to live and work for everyone through advocating for such things as the expansion of children’s health programs.
West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition director Jennifer Wells said the teachers’ strike and the coalition share similar themes.
“Workers’ rights, human rights and dignity of a living wage and benefits,” she said. “The teachers absolutely took on and with such power and built it organically and spontaneously, that we can’t do nothing but celebrate the effort that is basically turning the narrative on what workers’ rights really means and who should be fighting for it.”
Wells said it was quite the image to see the state Capitol complex packed with people earlier this year.
“The power of passing on the interstate and looking down into the parking lot and seeing a wave of cars,” she said.
“To see people teachers walking around and coordinating t-shirts and colors, building the chants, walking into their house, standing their ground and watching how they moved the needle, that was an example and proof to all of us of what we really can do when we come together.”
The organization named the Rockwool-impacted community in Jefferson County as its community of the year; organizers have protested the construction of an insulation plant citing public safety and health concerns.