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Can West Virginia Ban Teacher's Strikes?

State Senate passes a law but will the Governor sign it?

Brian Young's picture
Jun 03, 2019

For the past year, West Virginia teachers have been locked in a battle with state lawmakers. The battle for higher pay and school funding led to teachers across the state going on strike in 2018. Their strike set off a chain reaction of teachers strikes across the country.  2018’s strike closed public schools in every county of the state and flooded the capital with teachers demanding higher wages. A year later, lawmakers want to make sure that this never happens again.

On Monday, the West Virginia State Senate voted 18-15 to approve Senate Bill 1039. The bill would make strikes by public employees illegal. It would also allow school districts to fire staff members who participate in a strike. It would also withhold pay from teachers that are out on strike and forbid local school districts from closing in anticipation of a strike.

In 2018, with a strike anticipated, superintendents from across the state decided to close school rather than stay open and hire scabs for the classrooms. This meant that while teachers were technically striking, the district could continue to pay them. Of course, this took away a lot of the legislatures leverage in negotiations, since teachers weren’t facing the financial difficulties of going on strike.

In a further dig at union teachers, SB 1039 would allow for an unlimited number of charter schools to enter into the state. Charter schools are often non-union and are favored by anti-union “education reformers” like US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The bill now moves on to the House of Delegates. If it passes it will end up on Governor Jim Justice’s desk. The ultimate passage of the bill is still up in the air though. On Sunday, Justice told Metro News “We’re at a very, very difficult impasse.” He has made it clear that he is still undecided on whether or not to sign the bill into law.

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