West Virginia school employees considering striking

WAYNE COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Angry teachers and school personnel got together Monday night at Spring Valley High School for a rally where they voiced frustrations over low pay.

Evin Pearson teaches fourth grade at Dunlow Elementary.

"We don't go into it for the money," Pearson said. "I just love working with kids. I want to educate them."

Approved changes in the PEIA plan for the next fiscal year include basing premiums on total family income. That would mean premium increases for teachers.

The State Senate is scheduled to take a final vote Wednesday on the pay raise bill. That bill would increase teachers' pay by 1 percent each of the next five years, but school employees say it's not enough to offset the additional insurance costs.

"I feel like we're getting a raise just to have to pay more," Pearson said. "I don't feel like that's fair."

House of Delegates member Robert Thompson also works as a social studies teacher at Wayne High School.

"This pay raise they're wanting to give is just slight of hand," Thompson said.

Going on strike is an option they're considering, even though that's illegal for public employees in West Virginia. Teachers haven't gone in strike in the Mountain State in nearly 30 years.

"You can only push people so far before they start to fight back," Thompson said.

"I'm not saying it can't happen, because it very well can happen, and it will happen if need be," David Thomson, vice president with WVSSPA in Wayne County, said.

A bill was dropped Monday that would call for a severance tax on natural gas that would fund PEIA.

Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday he's listened to concerns, and has been assured that PEIA can remove the $25-per-month-penalty associated with the Humana Go-365 program.

The AFT West Virginia president released a statement saying Justice's decision is one step in the right direction.

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