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Eric Sebert

Eric Sebert

Back in 2019, working-class West Virginians began to lay out a vision for what government would look like if it were run by them, instead of wealthy elites and the politicians they own.

Calling ourselves WV Can’t Wait, we came together at 197 town halls, open to the public. We conducted more than 11,000 one-on-one conversations at fairs, festivals and community meetings. They started putting down on paper their own vision for West Virginia’s future. Teachers got together to write an education plan. Miners wrote their own “bill of rights.” Small businesses rewrote the tax code to keep our wealth here.

We called this policy platform a “New Deal for West Virginia.” Our New Deal did the opposite of what Gov. Jim Justice is fighting for; it shifted more than $2 billion per year from the pockets of wealthy and out-of-state interests into the pockets of working West Virginians. It heralded broadband as a public utility, full cannabis legalization and the creation of a state bank.

Dozens of WV Can’t Wait candidates signed on to this platform in the 2020 election.

The story doesn’t end there.

This session, WV Can’t Wait lawmakers began to introduce this New Deal into real legislation.

Some of the highlights include:

  • House Bill 3124. A first-time bill to grant collective bargaining rights to public employees, once and for all shifting power to teachers and other public employees who remain underpaid and undervalued, plus a pay raise for teachers and school service personnel (HB 3109).
  • HB 2841. A first-time bill to end election buying, the practice of wealthy candidates dumping unlimited cash into their own campaign coffers.
  • HB 2850. A first-time bill to start a corporate crime unit in the West Virginia State Police. For the first time in state history, shifting police money to the investigation of corporate criminals and corrupt politicians and away from West Virginians who are poor, sick or Black.
  • HB 2148. A first-time “Facebook tax” bill to charge companies that “mine consumer data,” and end the practice of Silicon Valley monetizing our personal information without paying their fair share.
  • HB 2839. A first-time bill to start a Recovery Can’t Wait program of, by and for people in recovery that would ramp up the state’s Naloxone distribution and include leadership of people with substance use disorder in all aspects of drug policy.
  • A whole slate of historic workers’ rights legislation, including a first-time “fair workweek” bill; a tiered $15 minimum wage bill (HB 2840); an end to “right to work” (HB 2849); a return to the prevailing wage (HB 2848); parental leave (HB 3123) and earned sick days (HB 3123) legislation; and an earned income tax credit (HB 3116)
  • There were other bills to make food access a right enshrined in the state constitution, legalize cannabis, support small businesses and more.

West Virginians don’t want more tax breaks for out-of-state corporations or the super rich. And we don’t want symbolism. West Virginians want real, bold change they can feel in their bank accounts and in their workplace.

You haven’t read about these bills in the news media because, despite their enormous popularity with working people, most of them didn’t even get a committee hearing. The reason is simple. Our government belongs to corporate lobbyists, not working-class West Virginians.

If you want to help us win a government that acts boldly, don’t call your lawmakers. Replace them.

Think about running for office yourself. Or, if that’s not the right role for you, ask a friend to run and offer to be their campaign manager. If you’re not sure how to get started, we’ll help. In addition to campaign training, funding and field support, we also offer a whole range of safety and mental health services, so that working-class people can afford to run against the powers that be.

No matter who you are, WV Can’t Wait has a place for you.

Our goal is to win a people’s government here in the Mountain State — where the people who work the hardest and bear the most are also the people who write the laws. We need a thousand leaders, not one. That means we need you.

Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, is a teacher and represents the 43rd District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Eric Sebert, of Nicholas County, is a WV Can’t Wait aide serving in this legislative session.

Both intend to run for office in 2022 as part of the WV Can’t Wait movement

(www.wvcantwait.com).

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