West Virginia lawmakers reach deal on strike

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has announced that state lawmakers have reached a deal to end a nine-day teachers' strike. CNN's Polo Sandoval reports.

Posted: Mar 8, 2018 5:56 AM
Updated: Mar 8, 2018 6:03 AM

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill Tuesday that gives a 5% pay raise to all state employees, including striking teachers and school staff.

The deal is intended to end a teachers' strike that has canceled nine consecutive school days across the state. Teachers' union representative Christine Campbell told CNN she anticipates school will be back in session Wednesday.

Both the House of Delegates and Senate unanimously approved the bill and Justice signed it into law.

"It took a lot of pulling for everyone to get there," Justice told crowds of cheering educators at the state Capitol in Charleston. "But we're there."

Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers, said the deal was a "huge breakthrough" for school employees and for doing what's right.

"You have a story here, a modern-day story, of labor solidarity on an issue that is irrefutable," she said. "That for teachers to stay in our profession, for bus drivers and support staff to stay and do this work, we need a livable wage, and we need the conditions in schools that we can help kids thrive."

The strike began February 22 when about 20,000 teachers walked out of schools in what has been a show of the strength of organized labor.

Public schools in 55 counties across the Mountain State were closed again Tuesday as teachers and educators demanded higher wages and better benefits, particularly for the embattled state employee health insurance program known as the Public Employee Insurance Agency, or PEIA.

West Virginia ranks 48th in the nation in terms of how much it pays its teachers, according to the National Education Association, and educators say that low pay pushes qualified teachers to leave the state.

Separately, the governor agreed to set up a task force to address the state health insurance program on March 13.

Though currently limited to West Virginia, the strike has had repercussions outside the state as teachers in Oklahoma say they, too, have reached their breaking point and are considering walking off the job next month.

Yet the focus in West Virginia has remained on the teachers in the trenches, even for students who have been out of class for days.

"I wish it wouldn't have come to this and that I was still in school, but I want the teachers to get the wages that they deserve, so I'm all right with it," Victoria Blickenstaff, a sophomore at Fairmont Senior High School in Fairmont, said before the announcement of the deal.

A legislative standoff

The West Virginia Legislature faced a standoff over how much of a pay raise to offer striking teachers and educators. A legislative conference committee was appointed to resolve differences between bills in the House and Senate.

Last week, the governor and union leaders agreed that teachers and service personnel would receive a 5% pay raise, and the House approved the proposal. However, Republicans in the Senate passed a bill Saturday night with a 4% raise.

Union leaders said teachers wouldn't return to work until they got a 5% raise.

At a legislative conference committee meeting Tuesday to resolve the issue, Republican state Sen. Craig Blair said the new deal represents the largest pay raise in state history.

There will be no tax increase to offset the raise, and Blair said the government will see a $20 million reduction in spending out of cuts to general services and Medicaid.

"With this agreement today to reduce spending in state government, in order to give every single dollar available to our public employees, we've achieved the goal of being fiscally responsible while also getting a pay raise that will help our teachers get back in the classroom and our students back to school," said Senate Majority leader Ryan Ferns, a Republican.

Justice told CNN that the funding would not come out of Medicaid or Medicare; the subject will come up in budget negotiations.

The governor said that the bill was a win not for any particular group -- but for what's right.

"At the end of the day, I think right won out," Justice said. "Not that the unions won or the Legislature won or I won. It's the idea and the premise that we ought to invest in education and let education be an economic driver for us."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 728811

Reported Deaths: 13405
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion996911740
Lake53548966
Allen40529675
St. Joseph35596550
Hamilton35536408
Elkhart28470441
Tippecanoe22375218
Vanderburgh22293396
Porter18701307
Johnson17923378
Hendricks17199315
Clark12943191
Madison12612339
Vigo12437246
Monroe11873170
LaPorte11856210
Delaware10667186
Howard9895216
Kosciusko9390117
Hancock8260140
Bartholomew8058155
Warrick7777155
Floyd7653178
Wayne7035199
Grant7032174
Boone6687101
Morgan6557139
Dubois6150117
Marshall6016111
Dearborn580077
Cass5794105
Henry5699103
Noble559883
Jackson501172
Shelby490696
Lawrence4522120
Harrison435072
Gibson434792
DeKalb427185
Clinton427053
Montgomery423688
Whitley395239
Huntington390080
Steuben385557
Miami381166
Knox371890
Jasper364747
Putnam359660
Wabash353479
Adams341054
Ripley339170
Jefferson329281
White313554
Daviess296299
Wells291381
Decatur284792
Fayette279562
Greene277885
Posey271333
Scott265653
LaGrange265570
Clay259447
Washington240332
Randolph239781
Spencer232131
Jennings229849
Starke215953
Fountain212046
Sullivan211442
Owen198756
Fulton194840
Jay193630
Carroll188520
Orange182654
Perry182637
Rush173025
Vermillion168843
Franklin167835
Tipton162845
Parke146116
Blackford134632
Pike133734
Pulaski116645
Newton107734
Brown101941
Crawford99514
Benton98514
Martin88615
Warren81815
Switzerland7858
Union71010
Ohio56511
Unassigned0414

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1082815

Reported Deaths: 19428
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1258081400
Cuyahoga1119722115
Hamilton799721205
Montgomery514061014
Summit47145945
Lucas42119788
Butler38338584
Stark32273906
Lorain24997481
Warren24274298
Mahoning21546588
Lake20653369
Clermont19761238
Delaware18512133
Licking16418212
Fairfield16176199
Trumbull16032468
Medina15268264
Greene15063244
Clark13983299
Wood13080189
Portage12839203
Allen11639232
Richland11349199
Miami10670217
Muskingum8803133
Wayne8793211
Columbiana8778229
Pickaway8564121
Marion8523135
Tuscarawas8473244
Erie7888154
Hancock6914127
Ross6846155
Ashtabula6805170
Geauga6686148
Scioto6406101
Belmont5881167
Union570848
Lawrence5549102
Jefferson5525151
Huron5430119
Darke5355123
Sandusky5347120
Seneca5282121
Athens519158
Washington5155109
Auglaize490784
Mercer480385
Shelby469293
Knox4486110
Madison435661
Putnam4278100
Fulton422469
Ashland421789
Defiance419697
Crawford3975107
Brown394157
Logan381676
Preble379598
Clinton372163
Ottawa366679
Highland355062
Williams339275
Champaign331658
Guernsey315653
Jackson312551
Perry294950
Morrow284939
Fayette281950
Hardin270864
Henry268666
Coshocton265257
Holmes2603101
Van Wert243463
Adams237852
Pike237634
Gallia235349
Wyandot231055
Hocking215362
Carroll191547
Paulding172640
Meigs144840
Noble133337
Monroe132042
Morgan108423
Harrison108137
Vinton83115
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 28°
Angola
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 26°
Huntington
Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 33°
Decatur
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 28°
Van Wert
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 34°
Rain moves in overnight into Sunday morning and looks to hang around much of the day, likely forcing Mother's Day plans indoors
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events