Charleston Gazette-Mail Publishes Q&A on West Virginia's Statewide Teacher's Strike

By Connect Clarksburg Staff | March 03, 2018

West Virginia is in the middle of its second-ever teacher strike. Teachers, this time joined by school service personnel, walked off the job Thursday, when thousands came to the state Capitol to show their frustration with legislators and Gov. Jim Justice over what the employees believe are inadequate pay and benefits and harmful legislation. Of the employees who didn’t come to the Capitol, many demonstrated outside their schools and in their communities.

The strike continued Friday, with smaller but still robust protests at the Capitol. Monday will mark the walkout’s third day.

Below are answers to a few questions about this year’s strike, as well as the state’s first teacher strike:

 

How is this like/unlike the last ‘statewide’ teacher strike?

West Virginia’s first teacher strike in history was nearly three decades ago, in 1990.

But that strike wasn’t technically statewide. It started with eight and gradually grew to include 47 of the state’s 55 counties.

Cabell County was among the eight where teachers never went on strike in 1990.

Before the start of this year’s strike Thursday, one-day work stoppages earlier this month had already closed public schools in 11 counties, including Cabell.

The 1990 strike also did not involve public school service personnel, a category that generally includes non-teachers, like bus drivers and cooks.

How long did the 1990 strike last?

It lasted about 11 days, including eight school days. Teachers in several counties voted to strike March 6, 1990, and walked out the following day, later followed by teachers in other counties. Kanawha County teachers walked out March 8, and Putnam County teachers went on strike the following day.

So far, this year’s strike, not counting the previous one-day work stoppages in certain counties, has lasted two school days. Ahead of those days, county school systems all announced they would be closed.

Union leaders have called for the strike to continue Monday. If certain school systems reopen Monday, that could mean consequences for employees who don’t show up to work in those counties.

Officials in Berkeley and Jefferson counties said Friday that their school systems would be open Monday, but then reversed their decision Saturday afternoon and said schools would be closed.

Why did the 1990 strike end?

It eventually ended after then-Gov. Gaston Caperton called for a special legislative session before the start of the 1990-91 school year. Then-Senate President Keith Burdette and then-House of Delegates Speaker Chuck Chambers also promised to recommend the special session.

In the special session in August, state lawmakers approved a $5,000 pay raise for teachers to be phased in over three years and added about $27 million toward equalizing teacher salaries statewide. They also made various education changes, including creating faculty senates in each school.

On March 10, 1990, a few days into the strike, Kayetta Meadows, then-president of the West Virginia Education Association, said the strike would continue because Caperton had broken his promise to hold a special session. Caperton denied making such a promise.

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