West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced Tuesday morning that his office had reached a deal to end the nine-day statewide teachers’ strike.
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.
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) March 6, 2018
The governor said the deal include the 5 percent pay raise that teachers union leaders had demanded and that the raise will be given to all state employees, not just teachers. Leaders in the GOP-controlled state Senate—which had previously blocked the 5 percent raise in favor of a smaller pay increase—confirmed the news and said money for the deal would come from spending cuts elsewhere.
The news arrived moments before West Virginia legislators were scheduled to meet to discuss a pay raise for teachers and other state employees. A similar deal had almost been reached at the end of last week when the governor and the state’s House of Delegates had agreed to the 5 percent raise—but the Senate refused to go along, opting instead for a 4 percent raise.
Union leaders have reportedly said they will wait for the full Legislature to approve the 5 percent raise before ending the strike.
Union leaders say they want to see the 5 percent raise to pass BOTH chambers today before they’ll tell teachers to go back to work.
— Jake Jarvis (@NewsroomJake) March 6, 2018
The massive strike was a reaction to legislation Justice signed into law last month providing smaller pay increases. Teachers argued that last month’s raises did not adequately keep pace with the cost of living. According to the National Education Association, West Virginia currently ranks 48th in teacher salaries. Educators there hadn’t received a salary increase for four years.
The strike halted classes and school programming for the state’s 277,000 students and 35,000 school employees for nearly two weeks. Had a deal not been reached, the state’s teachers unions had promised they would continue to strike indefinitely.
Update, 12:50 p.m.: Republican state senators have now reportedly shared details of the deal struck between the governor’s office and state lawmakers, which will cost the state $20 million. Sen. Ryan Ferns said the state’s Division of Tourism, Department of Commerce, Division of Highways, and Division of General Services would see budget cuts, according to the West Virginia State Journal. According to CNN, Sen. Craig Blair indicated that Medicaid spending would be reduced, as well—a proposal that quickly drew criticism from the left.
WV administration is saying teacher raise money will have to come from cuts to Medicaid. This is how austerity governments throw ice water on labor organizing: they make it seem like a zero-sum game. Any gains for a particular group of workers must come at the expense of others.
— Meagan Day (@meaganmday) March 6, 2018