By JOSHUA QUALLS
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Facing proposed state legislation that could put them at risk in several ways, teachers from Cabell and Wayne counties voted Tuesday evening to consider having a unified protest in the coming weeks at the West Virginia State Capitol instead of going on strike.
When Republican Gov. Jim Justice said at his second State of the State address Jan. 10 that all state employees would be getting a 1 percent raise, many West Virginia educators thought the increase was not nearly enough and considered it a slap in the face. To complicate matters further, senators have since proposed bills that could increase Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) premiums and put teachers’ seniority on the chopping block.
The teachers are now demanding from legislators a 5 percent raise and no other changes. They met at First Presbyterian Church in Huntington in a show of solidarity to discuss their options with leaders of several unions, opting to stall a strike by instead considering a “statewide day of action” for Saturday, Feb. 17.
The meeting was organized by the West Virginia branch of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association. It began with a short protest in front of the church on 5th Avenue, with passers-by honking horns as teachers waved posters reading “#StopCuttingPEIA” and “STOP collaborate and listen to the people you trust with your kids.”
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