Source: The Register-Herald
July 18, 2019
Senator Rollan Roberts calls for civility in teacher unions (”A call for civility in teacher unions,” July 3). I began to question whether I had his district correct in my mind, so I looked it up. Sure enough, Roberts is from Raleigh County and represents Raleigh Wyoming and a part of McDowell in the 9th District. The senator called out teachers and service personnel for staying silent and not speaking out against the dreaded union bosses. Does he not know the union history of his own district?
West Virginians have deep roots. We have a strong sense of home that’s bred into us. We gain comfort from our lush green mountains, and the heritage that sings through the tree tops down into our valleys.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s in Boone County, we all heard the songs of our ancestors through the lips of our family members. My daddy graduated from high school in 1971 and immediately began working in the coal mines. We lived through many strikes and layoffs throughout the years.
We sat down at the dinner table every evening when he got home and frequently discussed what was happening at the mines and what the union was doing about it. The United Mine Workers of America changed the lives of Appalachians throughout the 20th Century and we take that very seriously. Most of us weren’t alive during the hardest fought battles of our people along with the UMWA, but those stories have been passed down to us. They have solidified our community and forever impacted our history as West Virginians.
No one should be shocked when we rally together to head to the capitol. It’s in our blood to stand up for what is right. The term “union boss” is worn as a badge of honor. When we see the green camo and gold, we pay attention. To smack the proverbial hand of teachers and service personnel for unionizing and fighting for our students and the educational system in West Virginia is quite disheartening. I would hope the folks that take care of my two little boys all day have adequate training, supplies, support, pay and can take a day off when they are sick. Sadly, as educators, we have to fight for these rights every legislative session now and even special ones they call against us.
Sen. Roberts, you seem to have gotten most of your story backward. The “reprehensible, vindictive, retaliatory, and hypocritical” behaviors that you mentioned were not exhibited by our great state’s teachers, service personnel or union leaders. Those behaviors were exhibited by the majority caucus of both the House and Senate towards educators in the 2019 legislative sessions.
Anytime you begin to question what “the union” is doing, walk outside and listen to the voices of our ancestors of 100 years ago. They will tell you to listen to and fight for what is right for our workers, our people, and most importantly the children of West Virginia.
Heather Hayes Ritter
Librarian, Scott High School, Boone County
Treasurer, AFT Boone Local 6101