It wasn’t exactly solidarity forever.
Maxine Householder, a public school teacher at Harper’s Ferry Elementary School, called the police on her fellow public school teachers.
This morning, the teachers were at her husband’s place of business — Air-Row Sheet Metal at Martinsburg Airport to apply for summer employment.
In December, Maxine Householder’s husband, West Virginia Delegate Eric Householder (R-Berkeley County), encouraged West Virginia public school teachers to get part-time summer jobs to make ends meet.
In response, seven public school teachers arrived to apply for a job at Air-Row Sheet Metal.
Eric Householder was nowhere to be seen.
Instead, the teachers were greeted by his wife Maxine.
Maxine Householder informed the teachers that the only job available was for an HVAC mechanic.
“If you have an HVAC license, then you can apply for the job,” she said. “If you have a HVAC license, I will give you an application. Other than that, you can leave. It’s private property.”
The teachers were in no mood for civil disobedience and got ready to leave.
But it didn’t take Maxine Householder more than 20 seconds to pick up her cell phone and call the Martinsburg Police.
“You have been asked to leave, I’m calling the police now,” she said.
She calls the police and says — “There are people on my property. I have asked them to leave and they are not leaving. They are also taping me without my permission.” (Somebody from Householder’s business was taping the teachers without their permission either, but that didn’t seem to bother Maxine Householder. She didn’t mention that to the police.)
The police were seen racing to the scene of the “crime” — but everyone was gone by the time the police got there.
The teacher on teacher confrontation at Martinsburg Airport was triggered last December when Gina Pratt, a public school teacher at Back Creek Elementary School in Berkeley County, got into a Twitter exchange with Eric Householder.
Pratt encouraged Householder to put additional funding into the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) — the public employees health insurance plan.
Householder responded — “and where do you think the additional funding should come from?”
Pratt suggested — “up the cigarette tax, maybe?” (Last month, the West Virginia Legislature finally did increase the cigarette tax by 65 cents a pack, but Householder voted against it.)
Pratt asked Householder where she would be able to find the additional money to cover the increasing costs of her health insurance plan.
“Maybe working summer school?” Householder asked.
“Or maybe reduce retirement contribution?”
“Cut your internet at home?”
“Or find part-time employment in the summer?”
The teachers decided to take up Householder on his offer apply for a job at his business at the airport.
The action was organized by Eastern Panhandle Central Labor Council.
“We felt that the Twitter exchange was insulting to that particular teacher, demeaning to the profession in general, and showed a lack of empathy and support on the part of Delegate Householder,” said Jill Jones of the Labor Council. Jones is a staff representative for the American Federation of Teachers.
Jones said that when she advertised the event through social media, she received “countless responses from teachers — saying — I support what you are doing, I would love to be there but I’m working my second job on Friday.”
“Teachers should get salaries that support them year around,” Jones said. “It should be a livable salary. They should live comfortably in the middle class. Teachers should not be placed in a position where they are required to work second and third jobs. And it’s not just the summer. The vast majority of teachers are working during the school year.”
A starting teacher salary in West Virginia is around $31,000 a year. In Maryland and Virginia it’s $6,000 to $9,000 more a year starting out, Jones said.
One of the teachers at the event was Tony McDonald, a teacher at Warm Springs Middle School in Berkeley Springs. His wife is also a public school teacher.
McDonald said he thought that Householder’s Twitter exchange with Pratt was “disrespectful.”
Tony McDonald has three jobs. His wife has two jobs. And they are raising two children.
“We don’t get into teaching because we make great money,” McDonald said. “We are told our benefits are going to be there for us. But because of the cuts, our benefits are making our pay less than what it was to begin with.”