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'Don't Make Us Go West Virginia On You'

After West Virginia public employees staged a nine-day walkout, workers in other states are preparing to follow the same playbook.
 On March 12, just weeks after West Virginia public employees marched on their state capitol, Kentucky employees did the same.
On March 12, just weeks after West Virginia public employees marched on their state capitol, Kentucky employees did the same.Richard Becker

When Nema Brewer picked up the phone, her voice was thick with a cold. “It’s been quite a last few months,” she told me. But taking a day off isn’t really an option—around her, a Kentucky-wide labor movement is accelerating.

Brewer is a labor organizer and a school district employee in Lexington, Kentucky, and for the past 2 weeks she’s been working with her fellow public workers in almost all of the 120 counties in Kentucky to organize Facebook groups and protests. The state’s public employees are fighting against changes to their pension that would cut cost of living increases for retirees and further gut the underfunded program, which has over $40 billion in liabilities. We’re not asking for any more than we already have in Kentucky,” Brewer said. “We’ve been just basically raising Cain and fighting over just trying to hold on to what we have.”