Feb. 22 (UPI) -- West Virginia classrooms were empty Thursday as teachers staged a walked-out protesting low wages.
More than 1,000 teachers marched at the state Capitol in Charleston to demand raises and benefits that keep up with the cost of living.
Public schools in all 55 counties of West Virginia were closed as teachers protested.
"I'm reporting for duty on the picket line," American Federation of Teachers National President Randi Weingarten told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. "They are engaged in a righteous and fundamental American values fight for dignity and respect."
Weingarten added that teachers have been "disrespected by their government officials who think it's more important to give tax cuts to the wealthy and to corporations" than to invest in education.
Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill that would have given teachers a 2 percent raise, followed by a 1 percent raise in following years, but that was not enough to halt the protest.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee told CNN that teachers had told the governor "from day one" the proposed raises were not enough.
Teachers were also frustrated with future benefit cuts. Even though the Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board approved a freeze on the cuts for one year, teachers were looking for longer-term relief.