A Future with Air to Breathe and Books to Read

Solidarity with college students of tomorrow

This morning—just one week after a mass DC rally of Appalachians against the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline—13 youth from across the state gathered in Richmond to file a constitutional climate lawsuit. This lawsuit argued our state leadership’s ongoing failure to ensure a livable future for the people of our state. Their complaint was dismissed, but we know no fight for justice was ever won on a single day, and no movement can be stopped by a single judge.

The fight for public higher education and the fight for climate justice are intertwined. They are both unmistakably a fight for the future. There is a direct correlation between the deregulation of the extractive and abusive fossil fuel industry and the disempowerment of our public sector workforce and its constituents. While fossil fuel lobbyists successfully advocate for precariously low corporate tax rates that starve out and privatize education, the extractive private sector redirects its hoarded wealth to rampant environmental devastation and unchecked theft of land and resources. If our commonwealth has a future, this cannot continue. 

United Campus Workers of Virginia extends its solidarity and support to the 13 plaintiffs in this lawsuit and their struggle to defend our collective future. These young people are not just 13 in number: they represent a generation of youth that have grown up in over-crowded, under-funded, and unsafe public schools. If our current trajectory is not reset, the youth of their generation who do enter Virginia’s higher education system will face unprecedented tuition rates and precariously imbalanced ratios of students to faculty, advisors, and mental health professionals. They will continue to learn in inadequate facilities. Those who graduate will face a daunting job market, where anti-worker lobbyists and legislators have fought to keep jobs scarce and wages untenable. 

These 13 plaintiffs have bravely put forward an alternate vision for the world where we all can thrive. We believe in the regenerative economies of the public sector and of fully-funded public education. We believe all Virginia’s have a right to a world-class education without a lifetime of debilitating debt. We believe there is both wealth and capacity in our state to transition the fossil fuel workforce justly and smoothly into living-wage regenerative and public sector jobs. 

To the 13 plaintiffs in this lawsuit, to the youth of Virginia, to higher education students today and tomorrow, to public education workers, to public sector workers, and to the communities in Southwest Virginia that have led in the fight against extractive industry: 

Solidarity forever. 

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