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My Labor Belongs To Me

By Nicole McCormick

Nicole McCormick during 2019 work action

Coming to the understanding that my labor belongs to me, and that I get to decide to give or withhold it has been one of the most important lessons I earned from the 2018 strike. Truly acknowledging that I don’t owe a minute of my life to anyone or anything has been life changing. As educators and women, we often feel beat down, tired, angry, desperate, loathed, invisible, and disrespected. Even with the weight of those chains on us, truly owning your labor makes stepping out more comfortable. I’ve began to feel righteous in making the choice to tell my administrator that I won’t be coming in when yet again, the legislature is barreling though destructive legislation without West Virginia’s consent. None of us want to lose instructional time with our students, but when years of begging and pleading have only eroded our positions as educators what options are left? What will unfriendly West Virginia legislators listen to?

One person… one voice is easily silenced, but twenty thousand is hard to ignore.

We know what will make our public schools better. We are the experts. Realizing my worth, taking control of my life, and making the conscious decision to share this realization is what keeps my fire burning. I’m furious that "Omnibus resurrected" has made it through the Senate, but knowing that I can withhold my labor as part of the 55Strong movement makes me feel like anything is possible.

One of my favorite memes from our movement said, “Hold my pepperoni roll” because we’re not finished and we’re definitely paying attention.

Who does Mitch Carmichael, Patricia Rucker, Craig Blair, Marshall Wilson, and their ilk think they are? Better yet, who do they think they’re dealing with? We are tired of being pushed around and ignored. Time’s up! I don’t know how more plainly two back to back historic strikes can make it.

Your labor belongs to you. You don’t owe anyone anything. We are a seventy-five percent female workforce with a majority male legislature dictating to us like we are not the experts. Dictating to us like we aren’t more educated. Dictating to us like that we aren’t the mother of all professions.

We are worthy.

We will overcome.

We will win.

If it means that we refuse to go back to work in August, then so be it. You want to blame someone? Blame the legislators fixated on destroying West Virginia public education. Blame Mitch’s smirky face when he lies to you about how much he loves teachers. Blame Rucker’s connections to ALEC and her willingness to sell West Virginia’s children to the highest bidder. Blame Blair’s outright hatred of West Virginia’s public employees. West Virginians want more that to be sold to out of state interests. We have been a resource colony our entire existence and all we have to show for it is poor, sick, and poisoned people.

My labor is dedicated to protecting West Virginia’s children and my labor belongs to me.

Nicole McCormick is a veteran music educator in Mercer County. McCormick also serves as the president of the Mercer County Education Association, and is on the steering committee for the WV United caucus.

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