Blog - West Virginia Strong

How We Got Here: More Empty Promises?

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 — 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

How We Got Here: The Strike Begins

John Raby, the Associated Press How We Got There: The Strike Begins After years of struggle over rising health costs and frozen wages -- West Virginia is near the very bottom of states for teacher pay-- the teachers of West Virginia called a strike for Thursday, February 22, 2018. The historic strike would affect hundreds of thousands of public school kids and families across all 55 counties of the state. State officials reacted with restrained caution as the strike was technically illegal, but teachers packed the capitol building in Charleston in a show of remarkable solidarity. Robert Ray, the Associated Press At this moment, no one knew the outcome. Everyone knew, however: there had to be a change. Continue reading

How We Got Here: Teachers Respond

How We Got Here: Teachers Respond West Virginia teachers and public employees have been struggling with stagnant wages and constantly increasing health care costs. In some cases, West Virginia educators were caught in a cycle of actually paying to be employed, as changes in health care structures necessitated drastic payment increases. The situation, in a word, was unacceptable. That's why, despite a vaunted compromise from the PEIA board, West Virginia teachers had had enough. Continue reading

How We Got Here: PEIA's Shaky Path Forward

  How We Got Here: PEIA's Shaky Path Forward PEIA, the state's public employee health insurance system, has been the source of constant debate. The situation is fraught with controversy, with neither side seeing an equitable path forward. That was until the PEIA Finance Board in December approved a so-called "softened" approach toward proposals aimed at reform for the struggling insurance system, proposing a compromise change in the tiered system for premium changes, changes in family plan, and caps on deductibles. However, to many across West Virginia, this plan was merely papering over a deeply flawed system. Continue reading

How We Got Here: PEIA Cuts

We all know the pain and frustration felt across West Virginia among teachers, parents, and students. We also see working families coming together to demand dignity for West Virginia educators, who haven't seen a pay raise in years. What's less clear: How West Virginia got in this position. Let's take a quick look back at some of the events that led to the teachers' strike: Continue reading