W.Va. Teachers Union, School Service Personnel Call for Statewide Strike Starting Tuesday
CHARLESTON – The heads of the three unions representing teachers and school service personnel announced the start of a statewide strike starting Tuesday.
Representatives from West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, the West Virginia Education Association, and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association made the announcement during a press conference Monday in front of the chambers of the state Senate.
Members of the three unions said their members will strike starting Tuesday and go as long as needed to send a message to lawmakers that the version of Senate Bill 451, the education omnibus, considered by the senate Monday is unacceptable.
“We have worked patiently,” said AFT-WV President Fred Albert. “We are taking action. We are left with no other choice, but as of tomorrow we are calling a statewide strike. We are left no other choice; our voice has been shut out.”
“The concerns that we had last year have not been addressed to this point,” said WVEA President Dale Lee. “(The senators) were so intent of taking care of the outside interests they forgot the interests of our own people.”
“Don’t start those buses tomorrow,” said WVSSPA executive director Joe White.
Union leaders believe that there are enough votes in the House of Delegates to pass SB 451 with the updates from the senate, which include a statewide charter school program with seven school maximum and a downgraded education savings account program with 1,000 first-come-first-serve accounts for parents of special needs students and victims of bullying.
“We are not taking this step lightly,” Albert said. “We feel like we have no other choice than to send a message that we are following this hour-by-hour and today it changed. They moved it through very rapidly today. No, we have waited as long as our members have been patient to wait.”
It’s unclear how long a strike might last, and it’s also unclear whether there is support for a strike in all 55 counties. Unions never released the county vote totals that gave state leaders the authority to call a strike. According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Kanawha County Schools had planned to stay open during a strike. Lee said teachers understand there could be schools that decide to stay open and that leaders would evaluate those situations when they occur.
“Our members know what to expect,” Lee said. “Our members are ready to stand up for their profession. They’re ready to stand up for the kids of West Virginia.”