Sunday, 22 April, 2018

West Virginia Teachers Strike, School to Close For 8th Day

MGN Online MGN Online
Oscar Goodwin | 06 March, 2018, 03:22

An online fundraiser launched to help support West Virginia's teachers, who entered their eighth day of a statewide strike on Monday, has raised more than $200,000.

"House members wouldn't agree to that change, and both sides appointed three members to a conference committee, which will try to hash out the differences on the bill". After an initial round of protests, the House of Delegates later approved a 5 percent increase, negotiated last week between Justice and the unions. The strike began after Jim Justice, the state's billionaire governor, signed legislation which promised a 2 percent pay increase for all state employees, beginning in July, and followed by a 1 percent pay increase for teachers starting in 2020.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted Saturday evening to approve a 4 percent raise.

The show of support by thousands didn't immediately sway the lawmakers, who failed to agree on a 5 percent pay raise that would end the strike, forcing districts to cancel school again Tuesday. Community members have given Vasale fruit, cheese sticks and pizza to help feed the kids while they're at her house. The Senate backed 4 percent as more financially prudent. "We have heard the message of our teachers and state employees loudly and clearly, and we plan to continue delivering results".

The size and density of the crowds has prompted a "capacity concern from Capitol Police and the West Virginia Fire Marshal". But they say they believe they've come too far to back down.

West Virginia lawmakers are set to start addressing differences in pay raise bills for striking teachers. All 55 counties announced school closures for Monday. Teachers walked off the job February 22 and say their strike will continue Tuesday.

"With these actions, I hope our teachers and service personnel return to the classroom so our children can resume their education", Speaker Armstead said. However, because West Virginia is not a collective bargaining state, the increase must be first be passed as a law to be brought into effect.

A GoFundMe page for the striking workers had garnered more than $218,000 by midday Monday. Some have voiced frustration about the ongoing school disruption - and some kids say they miss their friends and teachers - but others have said they want to do what they can to support the strike in a state that ranks among the lowest in terms of teacher pay.

Then on Saturday, the state Senate approved a 4 percent raise, prompting angry union officials to vow to stay out of the classroom indefinitely. Three members from the House and three from the Senate - two Republicans and one Democrat - were selected. The suggestion was rejected by the Republican leadership.

The average annual salary for a teacher in West Virginia is approximately $45,000.

"Today, the teachers of West Virginia are carrying on that courageous tradition", Vermont Senator Bernie and former presidential candidate said in a tweet.

A task force on the health insurance issue meets March 13. Some of the nation's bloodiest labor struggles were fought during the coal wars (1912-'21), when miners living in the squalid conditions of West Virginia company towns (where workers lived in company owned housing and were paid largely in tokens that could only be redeemed at company owned stores- a ideal monopoly basically) made a decision to go on strike. Joe Sterling reported from Atlanta.

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