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Deal Reached in Stoppage

By Staff | Mar 7, 2018

Photo by Maggie Fisher Teachers and service personnel in Tyler County, and throughout the entire state, have been protesting in Charleston for higher wages, affordable insurance, among other issues.

As of Tuesday morning, it appeared an end might be in sight to the continuing work stoppage by West Virginia teachers and service personnel. As of this writing, a conference committee tasked with reaching a deal on a pay raise for state workers had agreed to an across-the-board 5 percent pay increase for all state workers.

Tuesday morning Governor Jim Justice confirmed the news, stating “We have reached a deal. I stood rock solid on the 5% Teacher pay raise and delivered. Not only this, but my staff and I made additional cuts which will give all State employees 5% as well. All the focus should have always been on fairness and getting the kids back in school.”

In the meantime, West Virginia’s teachers, service personnel, and students were spending the ninth consecutive school day on Tuesday out of classrooms. Teachers and service personnel said they were holding the work stoppage for several issues, including higher wages and affordable health insurance.

In Charleston, a House-Senate conference committee had been charged with resolving differences between the houses on a pay raise bill. The committee included Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, along with Delegates Bill Anderson, R-Wood, and Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; House Education Chairman Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson; Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley; and Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne.

During the weekend, Senate members passed a 4 percent wage increase for school personnel and all state employees. House members on the conference committee, however, indicated the House would stand strong on its position to give state police troopers and school employees 5-percent raises.

Throughout the past couple of weeks, teachers and service personnel in Wetzel and Tyler counties have found support through various county entities and organizations.

Each county’s respective board of education has passed a resolution, pledging support for the employees’ requests for higher wages and affordable health insurance.

At its Feb. 20 regular meeting, the Wetzel County Commission released a letter of support for state employees.

The letter noted that the commission supports “teacher, service, and state employees in their effort to obtain a pay raise and affordable healthcare benefits.”

“We certainly realize this is a difficult issue, but action is needed now to avoid the further loss of good teachers and other essential state employees.”

The letter of support was signed by all three commissioners and will be delivered to state lawmakers.

Visit Wetzel County also released a statement supporting “fixing PEIA for our teachers and all public employees.”

Meanwhile, organizations in the community have been stepping forward to provide childcare and warm meals while school doors are closed.

On Monday, March 5, the New Martinsville Ministerial Association partnered to provide childcare at New Martinsville United Methodist Church. The childcare included crafts, story hour, movies, and recreational time.

The Methodist churches in Middlebourne and Sistersville have also provided childcare during the stoppage, along with Indian Creek Southern Baptist Church, in Blue.

New Martinsville’s First Church of God, located near Walmart, provided a free hot lunchtime meal to area youth on Friday, March 2.

Community prayer services, for a resolution to the work stoppage, were held in each county.

Joselyn King contributed to this story.