United States: West Virginia teachers celebrate pay win

Thousands of striking teachers rally in Charleston, West Virginia, on February 26.

West Virginia officials agreed on March 6 to a deal ending a teachers strike by raising pay for all state workers by 5%. It came after more than a week of protests across the Appalachian state.

More than 277,000 students were out of the classroom for nine school days as teachers struck for higher salaries in the state, where pay ranks near the bottom for US teachers.

The West Virginia Education Association hailed the deal, saying on its Facebook page: “WE WON!” Teachers cheered and sang in the halls of the state capitol in Charleston after the pay raise was announced.

The deal came despite the state Senate approving just a 4% raise. The announcement of an accord came just ahead of a legislative conference committee meeting between lawmakers from the state’s Republican-controlled House of Delegates and Senate to reconcile differing bills. The House had backed a 5% raise, while the Senate favoured 4%.

Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, said by phone from West Virginia that the strike was indicative of the state’s long history of labour activism and of the planning done by educators before walking out.

“When you are pushed to the brink, people will stand up and show up and they will fight for themselves and their families,” she said.

In Oklahoma, teachers are weighing a possible walkout over budget cuts that have led to four-day school weeks in that state — and left teachers' average salaries trailing those in West Virginia.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]