Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

While the details of the deal remain murky, some expressed concern that funds for the five percent raise could come from cuts to social programs that help the poor, including Medicaid. (Photo: Chris Dorst/Charleston Gazette-Mail via Associated Press)

West Virginia Teachers Chant 'Put It in Writing' as Lawmakers Reach Pay Raise Deal

Teachers welcomed news of an agreement with applause, but vowed to remain on strike until the bill passes both chambers of the state legislature

Jake Johnson

Nine days ago, West Virginia teachers collectively walked off the job demanding better wages and a fix to soaring health insurance premiums, and on Tuesday Republican Gov. Jim Justice announced that lawmakers finally reached an agreement to give educators—and all other state public employees—a five percent pay raise.

Shortly after the deal was announced, the state House voted unanimously to approve the pay raise bill. The Senate subsequently approved the bill, sending it to Justice's desk.

In addition to the raise, the legislation will also establish a "tax force" in an effort to address rising costs in the state's Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), which many teachers viewed as a critical—if not the central—issue of the strike.

Teachers welcomed news of an agreement with applause. From inside the state capitol building—where they have been rallying since last Friday—teachers sang, "Words mean nothing, put it in writing!" prior to the bill's passage.

While the details of the deal reached by lawmakers remain murky, some expressed concern that money for the five percent raise could come from cuts to social programs that help the poor, including Medicaid. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 30 percent of West Virginians are covered by Medicaid.

"The point of the West Virginia's Medicaid ultimatum is that rich people's money is untouchable and if everyone else wants a decent quality of life they have to fight over it, may the best man win."
—Meagan Day, Jacobin

As the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported following Justice's announcement on Monday, "Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair (R-Berkeley) said the deal comes with a caveat—the Senate only agreed to fund the raises via 'very deep' cuts to the budget, including a $20 million slash to general services and Medicaid. These cuts go beyond already planned fiscal reductions to the Department of Commerce and Division of Tourism."

Meagan Day of Jacobin noted that while West Virginia lawmakers are portraying possible cuts to Medicaid as a mathematical necessity, in reality the raises and an insurance fix could easily be paid for by hiking taxes on the rich or massive oil and gas companies.

"There is more than enough money in the state to pay for raises and benefits teachers need and deserve without making other people's (often teacher's families and friends) lives even harder," Day noted in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Senate Dems Help Torpedo Resolution That Would Have Blocked $650 Million Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

"My simple question is, why in the world would the United States reward a regime that has caused such pain in Yemen with more weapons," Sanders asked after the vote. "The answer is we should not."

Brett Wilkins ·

Amnesty Scorecard Finds Twitter Failing to Protect Women From Online Abuse

"As our world has become increasingly dependent on digital spaces during the Covid-19 pandemic, it's critical that Twitter meet this moment with demonstrated commitment to improving the online experiences of all users, regardless of their identity."

Jessica Corbett ·

Filibuster Reform for Debt Ceiling Fight But Not Voting Rights or Reproductive Freedom?

"If our senators are willing to suspend the filibuster to protect our economy, they should be willing to suspend it to protect our democracy and our freedom to vote."

Jessica Corbett ·

As Senate Holds Guantánamo Hearing, Biden Urged to 'Finally End This Chapter of Injustice'

"Guantánamo is a centerpiece of the forever wars. It is a shameful symbol of racial injustice, torture, and violations of the Constitution and international law."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Unbreakable Solidarity': Kellogg's Workers Reject Contract That Would Leave New Employees Out of Benefits

"We're not willing to sell our souls for our future employees that are going to work side by side with us but not get the same pay or benefits."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo