Photo Credit: Tyler Evert, Associated Press From West Virginia Public Broadcasting From Morgantown to Matewan, educators and their supporters pledged to "remember in November" the Republican state lawmakers who held out on the raise they demanded this winter during the teacher strike. On Tuesday, they went to the polls to, as some put it, "make them pay in May." Continue reading
Photo Credit: WV Metro News There was more than just Party Primaries on the ballot on May 8th. Voters in several counties made their voices heard regarding safety levies and similar ballot issues to make their communities safer. Continue reading
Photo Credit: Timothy D. Easley, AP Observers across the country are noting a trend. with the success of the West Virginia teachers in their fight for more sustainable pay and health care premiums, other states are following suit. From NBC News: “There’s a lot of energy, and a lot of national attention being paid to it,” said Burns, who is also the director of bargaining for the Association of Flight Attendants. Last week, Kentucky teachers came out in force to protest proposed cuts to their retirement benefits. And in Arizona and Oklahoma, two of the worst-paying states for teachers in the country, educators are demanding salary hikes. Read the full story.
Photo credit: West Virginia Public Broadcasting In an effort to shore up the struggling Public Employees Insurance Agency long-term funding, two bills passed the Legislature and were signed by Gov. Justice. From the Bluefield Daily Telegraph: Gov. Jim Justice signed bills that allow co-tenancy and sports wagering. The co-tenancy bill allows development of oil and natural gas resources on single piece property with more than seven owners if at least three-fourths of the owners agree. The law takes effect July 1. “This co-tenancy law will allow for oil and gas development while protecting the rights of surface, mineral and landowners,” Justice said. Justice also signed a bill that would permit wagering on certain professional or collegiate sports events authorized as West Virginia Lottery Sports Wagering activities. Co-tenancy has had a controversial history in the state, with legislators citing problematic issues with regard to minority landowner rights. Gov. Justice, a coal-industry billionaire, had initially opposed the natural gas measure, only to relent after the success of the teacher strike.
By Ted Boettner and Cathy Kunkel For the past decade, the West Virginia Legislature embarked on a strategy of cutting its way to growth — cutting corporate taxes by about $220 million a year. And this year the Legislature and governor are poised for more of the same, proposing to phase out $140 million in business property taxes for mostly large out-of-state manufacturing and extraction industries. While proponents like the W.Va. Chamber of Commerce and others said our last round of corporate tax cuts would boost jobs and growth, it’s clear that the only thing that happened was large cuts to colleges, schools, and other important public services. We have fewer private sector jobs today, than we did over 10 years ago before cutting corporate taxes. While the tax cuts didn’t have a significant impact on business growth, they have resulted in rising health care expenses for the one in seven West Virginians who depend on the underfunded Public Employee Insurance Agency. Continue reading
Photo credit: Charleston Gazette-Mail file photo Now that West Virginia teachers have won their hard-fought campaign for a pay raise, a question remains: how to pay for it in the long-term. From Slate: There has been a push by some teachers—one endorsed by Justice, who happens to be a billionaire coal heir—to raise the state’s “severance tax” on oil and natural gas extraction in order to fund the state’s Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA), which provides … yes, insurance to its public employees. As labor reporter Dave Jamieson documents in the Huffington Post, business taxes in West Virginia were cut significantly a decade ago with the support of former state governor—and current Democratic senator—Joe Manchin. Jamieson cites an analysis which says the cuts reduced the state’s annual revenue by $425 million.
Photo Credit: Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail By JESS BIDGOOD CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The statewide teachers’ strike that has shuttered West Virginia schools for almost two weeks moved closer to a resolution on Tuesday when the House and Senate passed a bill to give all state workers, including teachers, a 5 percent pay raise. Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, announced the deal to hundreds of teachers who had gathered outside the State Senate on Tuesday morning, clad in the red T-shirts that have come to symbolize their strike. Their cheers filled the Capitol, but they immediately began to chant: “Put it in writing!” Continue reading
By JOHN RABY and MICHAEL VIRTANEN Associated Press CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Striking teachers in West Virginia delivered yet another message to lawmakers Monday by packing the state Capitol to capacity, the eighth school day of the walkout. 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. The governor, union leaders and the House of Delegates agreed to the pay raise for the teachers, among the lowest paid in the nation, but the Senate offered only a 4 percent increase. However, a conference committee of House and Senate members met twice Monday, adjourning until Tuesday morning after Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns said his chamber's leadership was offering "a compromise position." He noted it was only preliminary. Details were not publicly disclosed. Continue reading
By Meghan Holohan TODAY Contributor When teachers at Beckley Elementary in West Virginia considered going on strike, they worried their students would go to bed hungry. About 300 of the school’s 430 students rely on the free breakfast and lunch programs and a closed school meant many would have rumbling bellies. “One of our biggest worries … was our kids getting fed,” Patrick Williams, a social worker at Beckley Elementary, told TODAY. “We truly honestly care about our kids.” Continue reading
By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON and JESS BIDGOOD GILBERT, W.Va. — Home from a long day teaching English last month at Mingo Central High School, Robin Ellis told her husband the latest talk among the teachers. They were tired of low pay and costly health benefits — and they were mulling a “rolling strike,” in which teachers in a few counties would walk out each day. “You don’t want to do that,” Donnie Ellis, her husband, said. As a veteran of strip mines and the intense labor conflicts that often came with them, he knew what made some strikes succeed and others crumble. “It’s got to be all-in or nothing,” he said. Continue reading
John Raby, The Associated Press How We Got Here: More Empty Promises? After several tense days of the teacher's strike in West Virginia, members of the union leadership gathered with Gov. Jim Justice and other government leaders to discuss a potential end to the walkout. The demand? A five percent increase for school teachers. It sounded like, in principle, Gov. Justice had agreed. All that remained was agreement by the otherwise implacable legislature. Press Conference https://t.co/yCVyn1jDAT — Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) February 27, 2018 Would the promises hold membership so as to end the strike? The teachers would have to decide. One curious wrinkle: Gov. Justice admitted a potential monetary fix to the striker concerns, a fund collected by a natural gas collection tax, was a sticking point in the state legislature. Justice made his fortune in the coal industry, and still owns several mines. This policy injection led to consternation among state Republicans. Per Newsweek: “The Governor has decided to interject this unrelated dispute into the current discussion regarding teacher pay and benefits and the Public Employees Insurance Agency in an apparent attempt to convince our teachers and public employees to support such a plan. I believe this course is headed for disaster,” said West Virginia House Speaker Tim Armstead, a Republican. Continue reading