Teachers move closer to walkout with vote

A union representative says Cabell and Wayne county school employees voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to authorize a one-day walkout. (WCHS/WVAH)

The Cabell County school board listened at an emergency meeting Thursday as union representatives made their stance clear.

Representatives such as Brandon Tinney with the American Federation of Teachers said the state will change or a work stoppage is inevitable.

"I think we have their attention now," he said.

Tinney said Cabell and Wayne counties both voted Wednesday, breaking the 70 percent "yes" threshold authorizing a one-day walkout Feb. 16.

"The last thing any teacher or educator wants to do is not do their job, but it's at the point now it's sink or swim for these people," he said.

Rallies have broken out for weeks across the state, and Sunday local union presidents will meet from all over to vote on a statewide course of action.

West Virginia Education Association representatives say that vote is still in the works with 29 counties, or 57 percent of school employees, reporting in.

Concessions from West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and the state Legislature such as scrapping "Go 365" requirements, a proposed pay raise, and a possible freeze on changes to Public Employees Insurance Agency health benefits haven't calmed many public employees.

They said public insurance needs a dedicated funding stream that doesn't come out of their pockets.

"We are looking for a long-term solution to a big problem in health care in West Virginia," Tinney said.

All of the uncertainty has spooked parents such as Sarah Bell.

"Ultimately, I think of my children and their education," she said after the Cabell County Board of Education meeting.

Bell is a parent of three who felt split.

Low pay could cause teachers to leave the state, hurting her kids in the long run.

A work stoppage could hurt them now.

"I don't want that for my children,” she said, “but, at the same time, if their teachers and service personnel are not supported, ultimately, my children suffer the most."

Cabell and Wayne union members will meet Tuesday to decide a final course of action.

Cabell County Superintendent Ryan Saxe said any days lost to a strike or work stoppage would be made up in June.

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