West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s proposal to give striking teachers a five percent raise next year will end the strike – for now.
Schools are scheduled to reopen Thursday after a five day strike.
But teachers and service workers unhappy with the proposed deal began gathering at the capitol building in Charleston this morning.
And Senator Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) called the Governor’s proposal “an empty promise” that was designed to drive the national press out of West Virginia.
“Five percent in one year is an empty promise,” Ojeda said yesterday after the Governor made his proposal late yesterday. “Until I see a bill that is on paper that is going through the House and the Senate, it’s an empty promise.”
“Jim Justice starts every conversation with – I promise you I’m going to tell you the truth. And people who say that usually are the ones that are lying to you first.”
“It just amazes me how all of a sudden you can have five percent when it wasn’t a couple of days ago where we could barely afford two percent,” Ojeda said. “I don’t know if we can handle it. Two percent – we are going to struggle, but we will give you guys your two percent.”
“Now all of a sudden, national eyes are upon them and they don’t like it. When you’ve got NBC’s van parked outside the capitol, they are starting to realize that everybody in America is paying attention to the way they treat the working class citizens.”
“Now, all of a sudden, he finds this pot of money with five percent that he can now give to the teachers.”
“It’s nothing more than political games. And that’s exactly what has happened.”
Senator Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) told reporters yesterday “it would be completely ridiculous and frivolous to embrace this proposal this far down the session.”
“Once the national eyes are gone, I have a fear that the five percent will also go,” Ojeda said.
Part of the Governor’s package that union leaders embraced was a task force that includes union representation, to study a long term fix to Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA).
Ojeda doesn’t like the idea.
“It’s a shame that we are talking about putting together a board to fix PEIA when we have two bills — one in the House and my bill in the Senate — that both were tabled,” Ojeda said. “And these were bills that were going to raise the natural gas severance tax 2.5 percent and dedicate all of that to PEIA. And they tabled those bills.”
“Why? Because they don’t want to take anything from big energy.”
“This right here is Jim Justice’s plan to try to get the cameras to leave. That’s exactly what this is.”
“If we have to go to a special session and the teachers are still at it, make no mistake. I will donate my pay for special session either to a teacher’s strike fund or something in education. If you will take no pay, I will take no pay. That’s how we will do this.”
“I stand in your corner. And I want you all to continue to stand strong.”
Ojeda said that he’s heard from Republicans that “the biggest fight that’s going on” right now is a fight between the Senate Republicans and the House Republicans.
“Right now you have Tim Armstead, Carmichael and the Governor. And I don’t think any one of them are seeing eye to eye. And I don’t think either one of them want to see anything happen that will help either one of the other two.”