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Mingo school employees enter first day of statewide strike


Williamson Daily News

Teachers from Mingo County are shown in front of the courthouse on Thursday afternoon. Several other teachers went to Charleston and more are headed up there on Friday. Teachers across the state held a 2-day walkout because of changes in PEIA benefits.
(Williamson Daily News photo by Kyle Lovern)

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — School employees in Mingo County said they will continue to strike beyond Friday unless a permanent fix is made to their health insurance benefits. Intimidation over possible fines or jail time for their actions did not scare them, they said.

More than 30 teachers and public school employees rallied at the Mingo County Courthouse on Thursday, the first course of a planned two-day strike statewide. About a dozen more employees traveled to Charleston to rally at the Capitol.

Teachers and school employees are striking over proposed changes and cost increases to their West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency benefits. They are also frustrated with a 2 percent raise offered by the state legislature and proposed changes to seniority rights.

Wearing red, the employees waved at passing cars and chanted, “Hey Jim, we want Justice,” a call-out to Gov. Jim Justice, who had originally offered a 1 percent raise.

Hillary Hall, a teacher at Gilbert Middle School, said the lack of prospects for teachers in the state has driven many away. Young teachers feel like they can’t make it unless something changes, she said.

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