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Teachers walk out across West Virginia over pay, benefits

Staff report

Charleston Gazette-Mail

Teachers on strike gather in front of the West Virginia Capitol on Thursday morning.
(Gazette-Mail Kenny Kemp)

Teachers across West Virginia walked off the job Thursday, demonstrating at the state Capitol and at some schools in frustration over what they say is state leaders’ refusal to pay them and fund their benefits adequately.

Late Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice announced that he had signed a bill, passed by the state Senate earlier in the day, that would give teachers a 2 percent raise as of July 1, and a 1 percent raise each of the following two years, as well as raises for other public employees.

Teachers say those raises would be swallowed up by premium hikes and benefit cuts from the Public Employee Insurance Agency. At the governor’s urging, PEIA board members froze those cuts for a year, but teachers say a long-term solution is needed.

Hundreds of demonstrators waited in line Thursday morning at the Capitol to express their displeasure with state lawmakers. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers union, joined them on the Capitol steps.

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