Thousands of teachers, service personnel, and other public employees gathered at West Virginia’s capitol on Saturday to make their voices heard. They said they are fighting for fair wages, benefits, and seniority.
Several Ohio Valley teachers made the trip to Charleston for the rally.
They were joined by some state representatives, other industry unions like UMWA, and their brothers and sisters in education.
“The AFL-CIO, WVEA, everybody was there, and It really made me remember that we’re all together in this and it looks like we’re really going to persevere here,” said Marshall County AFT President Joshua Gary.
That sense of unity is what teacher Dave Parsons said was the most powerful part of the teacher’s rally.
“It was just truly moving and powerful. To see 12,000 plus people in one area, in the pouring rain, standing up for what they believe was, again, moving,” said Parsons.
A statewide teacher work stoppage has been announced for Thursday and Friday.
Teachers said they do not want to go on strike but that they feel the state has not kept its promises.
“They’ve been promising us for years that they’re going to fix PEIA. This isn’t about the salary, it’s about the benefits. We know our salary wasn’t guaranteed to be wonderful, but when our insurance just keeps going up, up, up, and they say ‘We’ll give you a one percent raise…’ Well my insurance went up like five percent. I’m losing money,” said Gary.
If public employees and legislators can come to an agreement before Thursday, the walk-out is off.
As of right now, teachers are planning to head back to Charleston on Thursday to continue their fight.
A work stoppage announcement does not necessarily mean that schools will be closed.
Stay with 7News for updates on any school closings.