MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — From the Atomic Grill to Ridgedale Elementary to Sheetz in downtown Morgantown, demonstrators were clear: teachers, service personnel, and public workers deserve better.
“Our concerns have fallen on deaf ears,” said South Middle School English teacher Ashley Glock.
Glock rallied with about 30 to 40 others just outside of the Atomic Grill on Greenbag Road near Mountainview Elementary.
“Every person that is standing up is doing so because they are fed up with what’s going on,” Glock said.
She said this isn’t about unions or union leadership; rather, she said it’s about standing up to “fight for what’s right.”
“Everyone is here because we want to be here,” she said. “We see for ourselves what’s wrong. and we’re ready to fight for what’s right.”
While many teachers were boarding buses to rally at the Capitol, some stayed behind to hold informational pickets Thursday in hopes of keeping community support and awareness raised locally. Tiphani Davis rallied just outside of Sheetz in downtown Morgantown.
“Stand by your teachers and your public workers,” said Davis, an English and Journalism teacher at Morgantown High School. “We are what makes West Virginia great.”
Davis cited rising deductibles as part of her Public Employees Insurance Agency plan as one of several reasons she joined the statewide work stoppage, the first since 1990.
“We have to pay out of pocket because our deductible goes up and up every single year,” she said. “As a young mother of two kids and child care and all these other expenses, that’s just not attainable.”
The statewide stoppage, not technically being called a strike by teacher’s unions, is only the third statewide teacher work action of it’s kind in American history — with strikes in West Virginia in 1990 and Florida in 1968 as the only other two of record.
“It’s not fair that we are expected to care for all of West Virginia’s children every day — and we do,” Davis said. “Then our children aren’t taken care of.”
The stoppage is only scheduled to last until Friday, but the door has been left open by union leadership and other school personnel for the stoppage to extend into next week.
“I want to stay here,” Glock said. “I want to retire in West Virginia. This is where I want to be, but they’re making it difficult.”
Glock, who was born and raised in Morgantown, said she’s been more fortunate than teachers like Davis — and that’s why she’s rallying.
“I’m not the one that’s dealing with unexpected illnesses,” she said. “I’m not the one who’s dealing with family and healthcare with a spouse that’s an employee as well. I’m not worried about the combined income. I’m here to stand up for those people as well.”
Tiphani Davis had a piece of advice for legislators in Charleston, suggesting a surefire way to avoid a full work stoppage spilling into next week.
“The only thing that they’re going to do to avoid a full work stoppage is to fully fund PEIA and give us a five percent raise for the next three years,” she said.
Gov. Jim Justice signed into law Wednesday night a bill increasing teacher pay by two percent next year and one percent each of the following two years.
The PEIA Finance Board also approved a 17-month freeze to controversial changes to health insurance plans that would have impacted public workers across the state.