Teachers across West Virginia plan to stage a statewide walkout this Thursday and Friday, amid escalating tensions regarding pay and health care.
The work stoppage, though temporary, is meant as a shot across the bow to legislators. Service personnel throughout the state will also participate in the walkout, said union leaders.
“The entire state of West Virginia will be shut down,” said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association. “We are standing united—all 55 [counties]. Will you stand with us?”
Teachers and public employees are demanding officials fully fund the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) and increase salaries. Gov. Jim Justice has proposed freezing PEIA, which would delay changes to the program and raise costs for all state employees. Union officials also say a proposed pay raise for teachers is too small to cover a projected increase in healthcare costs.
The walkouts have the support of both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.
“Teacher shortages, all these problems, are a national crisis. West Virginia educators are showing the ways to address that,” said Mary Cathryn Ricker, executive vice president of the national AFT at the rally announcing the work action Saturady. “The courage shown here in West Virginia is inspiring others. These teachers are leading the way.”