CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A West Virginia lawmaker has renewed an attempt to punish teachers for striking in a state where work stoppages have occurred in two of the past three years.

Senate Education Committee chairwoman Patricia Rucker, a Jefferson County Republican, introduced a bill Wednesday on the first day of the regular legislative session that would allow striking teachers to be fired.

Under the bill, county boards of education could instead order the prorated salary or hourly pay of a public employee to be forfeited for each day of their participation in a strike. County superintendents also would be barred from closing schools in anticipation of or to facilitate a strike.

While the bill’s prospects of passing are uncertain, the November election produced a supermajority for Republicans in both chambers of the legislature. Having a two-thirds majority gives the GOP the ability to advance bills without Democratic support.

Rucker’s bill “doesn’t surprise me,” said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association. “I think they can pass anything they want to pass.”

Similar anti-strike provisions were removed from an education bill that passed the Legislature in 2019.

Several states, including West Virginia, already ban teacher strikes, but that does not keep them from occurring. A 1990 state Supreme Court ruling declared a strike that year illegal.

If the current legislation would allow teachers to be fired, “that would be up to a legal challenge,” Lee said. “We haven’t had the right, so to speak, to strike the last two times we’ve had a work action. Our people understand that.

“If things get bad enough, they’re willing to take the risk.”

In 2018, West Virginia teachers and school service personnel went on strike statewide after balking at an initial bill signed by Gov. Jim Justice to bump up their pay 2 percent in the first year as they also complained about rising health insurance costs. West Virginia teachers, some of the lowest-paid in the country, had gone without a salary increase for four years.

The nine-day strike ended after the Legislature eventually agreed to 5 percent raises. The strike also launched the national “Red4Ed” movement, which included strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington state, Los Angeles and Denver.

In 2019, West Virginia teachers went on strike for two days over a broad-based education bill that was killed hours after the walkout started. The bill had included a proposal to allow the state’s first charter schools. The Legislature then waited until after the school year concluded to pass the charter schools proposal that was signed by the governor.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(3) comments

elmerchismo1

Why the teachers went on strike in 2018: "West Virginia teachers, some of the lowest-paid in the country, had gone without a salary increase for four years." The strike resulted in a 5% pay increase, which maybe covered 4 years of inflation. This now proposal is designed to keep them from getting too uppity.

Dwasserba

[thumbup]elmo I had selected the same phrase to highlight. Sounds like: no strike, no reasonably moderate raise. This history would not attract first-tier teachers. Fire them, yeah. There are no other nearby states that employ teachers, right?

bosco

Maybe CommaLA will get them jobs reclaiming "land mines".

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