Unions representing West Virginia teachers and service personnel say they will stay out on strike after the state Senate voted to cut the 5% pay raise they had negotiated with Gov. Jim Justice. In a joint statement Saturday, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, West Virginia Education Association, and the School Service Personnel Association said Senate President Mitch Carmichael and his team left them with no choice after they voted to reduce the raise to 4%. The statement said all public schools in West Virginia would be closed Monday "and remain closed until the Senate honors the agreement that was made." The Republican-controlled Senate voted Saturday evening to approve the lower pay raise, bucking teachers, the Republican Justice, and the Republican-controlled House, which approved the 5% raise on Wednesday. The two bills will now have to be reconciled, reports the AP.
The Senate's vote came as the strike rolled into its second weekend. Republican Sen. Greg Boso introduced the amendment to lower the raise, which the Senate adopted by a vote of 19-15. Senate Republicans have repeatedly emphasized exercising restraint with spending, while agreeing that teachers and public workers are underpaid. "That compensation increase is long overdue," said Sen. Charles Trump, a Republican. "We've been able to do this without tax increases." Approving a 4% raise, instead of the 5% hike, will save the state $17 million, Boso said. Democratic lawmakers said their Republican counterparts should approve the deal Justice negotiated with union leaders. "We're all caught up in our egos," said Democratic Sen. Douglas Facemire. He noted the impact on students, including those who depend on schools for meals. "For 1% we're going to let kids go hungry," he said.