CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The presidents of both teachers unions say they came away from a meeting Friday morning with the leadership of the House of Delegates “encouraged” about being included in upcoming discussions about a long-term fix to the Public Employees Insurance Agency. The new information will be passed along to teacher leaders at a key meeting scheduled for this weekend.
“House leadership wants to work on a long-term fix, which is very encouraging,” West Virginia American Federation of Teachers President Christine Campbell said during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee described the meeting as “meaningful discussion” about the path forward on the PEIA issue.
“We’re encouraged with discussions we had with House leadership this (Friday) morning about really coming up with a plan to get to that point. Where we put together a group and have seats at the table that will have the discussion on how we get forward and how we move PEIA forward from there,” Lee said on “Talkline.”
The meeting came less than 24 hours after Gov. Jim Justice held a news conference to talk about his proposal that the PEIA Finance Board keep the same health insurance plan in place for the next 17 months. The state will have to come up with $29 million to keep the plan the same. The changes in that plan approved late last year have been one of the concerns teachers have expressed as they consider a possible work stoppage.
Both Lee and Campbell said they would convey the new information to their memberships. A joint meeting will be held in Flatwoods Sunday. In attendance will be teachers who are the county presidents of their local unions. There will be an exchange of information, Lee and Campbell both said.
“We’ll let them know what’s happening in Charleston and they’re going to give us some information on what’s going on in their individual counties and then we’ll have a better understanding of statewide where we stand and we’ll collectively come up with a plan of action from there,” Lee said.
Lee said Friday’s meeting with lawmakers didn’t focus much on the pay raise plan. The House has forwarded a bill that would front load a 5 percent pay raise over five years while the Senate has passed the governor’s 1 percent a year for five year raise package. The unions don’t like either one.
Teachers held walk-ins in several counties Friday morning. Teachers in Cabell and Wayne counties voted Thursday night to have a one-day walkout next Friday. Many of those teachers may end up at the state capitol next Friday. A state capitol rally of teachers from across the state is scheduled for a week from Saturday, Feb. 17.