Following senate vote, work stoppage to continue

Staff and Wire Report

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — There will be no return to classrooms for teachers and service personnel in West Virginia Monday following the vote by the West Virginia Senate to approve a 4 percent pay raise, 1 percentage point less than what the governor negotiated with the educators and what the full House agreed to give them.

The three unions representing West Virginia teachers and service personnel say they will stay out on strike following the state Senate’s vote to cut the 5 percent raises they negotiated with Gov. Jim Justice.

In a joint statement, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, West Virginia Education Association and the School Service Personnel Association say Senate President Mitch Carmichael and its leadership team has left them with no choice.

They say all public schools in West Virginia will be closed again Monday and will “remain closed until the Senate honors the agreement that was made.”

The Senate’s vote came Saturday evening as the teachers’ strike rolled into its second weekend. The amendment to the original pay raise bill was introduced by Republican Sen. Greg Boso of Nicholas. The Senate adopted it 19-15.

Senate Republicans have repeatedly emphasized spending restraint while agreeing the teachers and West Virginia’s other public workers are all underpaid.

“That compensation increase is long overdue,” said Sen. Charles Trump, a Berkeley Springs Republican. “But in West Virginia we’ve been able to do this without tax increases.”

The 4 percent raise would cost $17 million less than the 5 percent hike, the senators said.

Democratic lawmakers said their Republican counterparts should approve the deal the governor negotiated with union leaders for a 5 percent raise.

“We’re all caught up in our egos,” said Democratic Sen. Douglas Facemire of Sutton. He noted the impact of the impasse on students, including those who depend on school for their meals. “For 1 percent we’re going to let kids go hungry,” he said.

The Senate bill will have to be reconciled with that passed by the House, which approved the 5 percent raise.

On Saturday evening, the Point Pleasant Register heard from those who represent constituents in Mason County in the House of Delegates about the Senate’s vote. Delegates Scott Brewer (D) and Josh Higginbotham (R) of the 13th District and Jim Butler (R) of the 14th District, all voted for the House Bill which included the 5 percent pay increase. On Saturday evening, the three delegates all reported they felt the House would reject the Senate bill.

Beth Sergent, editor of Ohio Valley Publishing, contributed to this article. photo

Staff and Wire Report