West Virginia is no stranger to a crisis.
In 1918, a mineworker in West Virginia was more likely to die on the job than an American soldier fighting overseas in the first world war. So West Virginians fought back. Black, white and immigrant miners marched – 10,000 strong – against the coal operators’ hired thugs and bought politicians. The West Virginia mine wars marked the bloodiest labor conflict in American history.
A century later, West Virginia educators sparked a nationwide strike movement. Like the miners before them, teachers and bus drivers donned red bandannas as they shut down schools and overwhelmed the state capitol. Their fight for the quality healthcare they were promised continues to this day.
Living in West Virginia means getting used to crisis – mine explosions, chemical spills, floods. Today we are faced with a new crisis, a virus killing our people and threatening their livelihoods.
But the story is the same. We’re stuck with politicians who come on TV every day, telling us we have to choose between our health and our bank accounts.
They’re lying. And it’s the same lie they told coalminers and striking teachers: “Get back to work. Or else.”
It wasn’t true then. And in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, it is not true now.