For nearly two weeks, teachers across West Virginia raised their voices and shut their classroom doors in demands for a pay raise. School systems in nearly all of the state’s 55 counties remained shut down for the entirety of the strike.
The strike put the state of West Virginia’s education at a halt for nine days, a remarkable show of defiance by the teachers in a state where the power of organized labor, once led by strong mining unions, has greatly diminished. Going against the union leaders’ advice to return to work when the governor first promised them the raise, the teachers had proactive meetings in malls, union halls, and within Facebook groups saying that they would be out until their raise was enacted in law.
Danielle Harris, a third-grade teacher from Fayette County said, “Maybe our voices are being heard, finally. These strikes aren’t for nothing.”
Last week, Governor Jim Justice and the union leaders agreed that teachers and service personnel would receive a 5% pay raise. The House approved the proposal, but the Senate passed a 4% raise. Union leaders say the teachers won’t return to work until they get a 5% raise.
Between that 1% is a $6.9 million difference in the two proposals, according to new projections from the governor’s office and the House finance committee.
Pictured above is Gov. James Justice signing a bill giving West Virginia state workers a 5% raise on Tuesday while surrounded by union leaders last week. This ended the nearly two-week teacher strike.
Mitch Carmichael, the president of the State Senate said that the deal will probably lead to cuts in other parts of the state budget, Medicaid being among the areas cut.
“These things come at a cost,” Mr. Carmichael said.
But as he signed the bill, Mr. Justice tried to dispel the suggestion that the pay raise would come at the expense of Medicaid recipients.
“There’s not a chance on this planet that’s going to be the case,” Mr. Justice said. “We have cash in the balances in Medicaid that will absolutely backstop any cuts whatsoever from Medicaid.
Teachers among the state of West Virginia came together for a common goal and won. Maybe this will spur thought in districts around the country, rethinking the way they treat their teachers and what they do for a living. Teachers do not go into the profession for the money, that is for sure, but they do expect to be highly valued. There is so much respect for those teachers who stood up for their beliefs and values.