CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Just two years after West Virginia teachers went on strike over pay and PEIA benefits in 2018 and 2019, a bill has passed that aims for strikes by public employees to never happen again.
SB 11 was introduced by Sen. Patricia Rucker, (R) Jefferson.
“Several folks have brought up that this is retribution, that this is vengeance that this is some sort… I mean, I don’t know how they can say that when we had this in the Education Reform Package before they ever went on strike,” said Rucker.
The Supreme Court had already declared work stoppages by public employees unlawful in 1990.
“We feel that it is important for them to understand that they don’t have the legal right to strike,” said Rucker.
SB 11 passed 12 to 21 Monday by the Senate.
The bill clarifies strikes by public employees are grounds for termination and no payment will be issued for the days the public employees are on strike.
On the Senate floor, Democratic senators Richard Lindsay and Mike Caputo said the bill goes against West Virginia’s heritage of standing up.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee says he’s not surprised.
“Educators have known since 1990 that it’s illegal to strike, but when you push a group far enough you’re willing to take a stand,” he said.
Republican Senator Eric Tarr says it’s not fair to leave kids hanging.
“We’ve had kids now that for the past four years have not had a full consistent education and the work stoppages which were illegal were part of that,” said Tarr.
“I agree, it’s about the children, and everything we do is about the children including the right to stand up and stand out,” said Lee.
SB 11 now goes to the House where Republicans say there are enough votes to pass it.