Union Leaders Celebrate Victory as W.V. Governor Signs 5% Raise for All Public Employees To End Strike

5,000 Teachers Rally on the Steps of the West Virginia State Capitol (Charleston Gazette-Mail)

This afternoon, union leaders, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, and Republican leaders of the state legislature reached a deal to end the 9-day West Virginia teachers’ strike.

As part of the deal, all public employees — not just teachers in the state — will receive a 5% raise across the board. This will likely halt talk among public employee unions in the state of striking as the initial legislation initially had public employees slated for smaller raises.

In addition, West Virginia Governor Justice vowed to veto any bills that would fund charter schools, strip teachers of their seniority, or reduce or remove the deduction of union dues from their paychecks even if those dues are applied to political work.

The deal also will freeze all out-of-pocket health care costs under the WV Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) for a full 19 months. In order to prevent any further protests, the administration can also provide extra employee benefits such as retirement plans, stock options, rewards (like employee gift cards), and bonuses.

The deal will also appoint a task force composed of state officials as well as teachers and public employee union leaders that will propose fixes to PEIA by October. Union leaders hope that if the state legislature is unwilling to take action on shoring up PEIA in October, it will help them to turn out their membership at the polls in November.

“Today, right beat might in the truest tradition of Mother Jones. That victory is a testament to the voice and determination, the resilience and compassion, and the collective power and organizing of the educators of this state,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a statement.

Most teachers are likely to return to work now that the deal is struck. However, the possibility for additional action remains as teachers have rejected such deals in the past. So far, no county-wide group of teachers has announced an intention to remain on strike now that a deal has been announced.

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter who covered everything from Lula & the Brazilian labor movement to major league baseball. He spent years covering union organizing in the South for The Guardian and was labeled by the New York Times as an "abrasive gadfly" for exposing within the labor movement. Raised in a UE union family in Pittsburgh, Elk was illegally for union organizing at Politico in 2015 and used his NLRB settlement to start the crowd-funded Payday Report. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and is fluent in both Pittsburghese and Portuguese, which he learned when attending journalism school at PUC-Rio de Janerio. Email: [email protected]

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