School teachers and service personnel from all 55 counties will participate in West Virginia’s first statewide walkout Thursday and Friday, union leaders announced Saturday.
The announcement came at the end of a rally featuring thousands of teachers and others at the state Capitol, and follows weeks of growing tension between public employees, educators and the state Legislature regarding concerns with pay and health care.
“The entire state of West Virginia will be shut down,” said Dale Lee, president of West Virginia Education Association. “We are standing united — all 55. Will you stand with us?”
The work action is a last message to legislators at the Capitol “to do your jobs, or we’ll vote you out,” said Christine Campbell, president of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers.
Mary Cathryn Ricker, executive vice president of the national AFT, and Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association, came to West Virginia for the rally. They expressed to all the teachers that they were setting examples for their colleagues across the country.
“Teacher shortages, all these problems, are a national crisis. West Virginia educators are showing the ways to address that,” Ricker said. “The courage shown here in West Virginia is inspiring others, these teachers are leading the way.”
In addition to Lee, Campbell, Ricker and Pringle, speakers at the rally included Joe White, executive director of West Virginia School Service Personnel Association; Greg Baker, president of the West Virginia Trooper Association; Josh Sword, president of West Virginia AFL-CIO; Ken Hall, president of West Virginia’s Teamster chapter; Levi Allen, secretary-treasurer of United Mine Workers of America and several West Virginia teachers and school employees, who shared stories about the difficulties they’ve faced with rising health care costs and minimal pay increases.
While the upcoming work stoppage will only affect teachers and school personnel, leaders said it was important to show solidarity and impress on legislators that there was a strong support system standing behind those in education.
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