CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Teachers filled the Capitol as the Legislature convened on Friday, and Saturday there will be even more public employees at a rally at the Capitol grounds.
Some of the teachers who rallied at the Rotunda on Friday said they’ll be back on Saturday and out among other public employees pushing for higher wages and greater stability for the Public Employees Insurance Agency.
Saturday’s rally will be for teachers, school personnel, law enforcement, state employees and community members from across West Virginia.
That event is to start at 1 p.m. Announcements about it set the conclusion at 2 p.m., although that doesn’t seem set in stone.
Rally speakers will include educators, school support personnel, a state trooper and community members.
The rally is hosted by the West Virginia AFL-CIO on behalf of about 30,000 teachers, school support personnel and other public employees.
“We want to advocate for ourselves, for our communities, for our schools,” said Deidra Roberts, a speech language pathologist who has worked in Lincoln County schools for 20 years.
Roberts was among those who gathered at Friday’s rally.
Saturday’s rally will be different, she said, because it involves even more groups.
“It’s more of a unifying effort for all educators to come together and all public employees to come together,” she said.
Last Sunday, members of the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia voted to authorize a work action.
For the first time in its 52-year history, the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association voted Wednesday to authorize action.
Roberts said she doesn’t want to strike but believes it may be necessary.
“We’re here trying to be pro-active and stop that from happening — but we’re ready to do that if it needs to happen,” Roberts said.
Mary Schwertferger, a career-tech business education teacher in Brooke County, said her colleagues decided to stay overnight so they could be at Saturday’s rally too.
“It’s not about being loud. It’s just about being heard,” she said. “And actually it’s not even about being heard. It’s about being seen. I’d rather be seen.”
She’s a 38-year school system veteran who also went through the strike in 1990. She’s about to retire but remains concerned about her health insurance costs.
She considered Friday’s rally a success.
“I think it was unity being shown and strength,” she said. “Nobody wants to go on strike. Teachers don’t want to be on strike.”