West Virginia teachers protest on the steps of the Capitol building Monday protesting pay rates. On Tuesday, the Senate agreed to a 5 percent raise, ending a labor strike. Photo courtesy WVEA Facebook
March 6 (UPI) -- The West Virginia Senate on Tuesday agreed to give state employees a 5 percent raise, which ended a teacher strike that's shut schools down for nearly two weeks.
Last week, Gov. Jim Justice announced a tentative deal that would give teachers the 5 percent pay raise. After the Senate on Saturday decreased the amount, though, West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee announced the strike would go on.
Tuesday, Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair said the agreed pay raise is the largest in West Virginia history. He also said to make it possible, his staff had to find other ways to cut $20 million in state government spending -- saying the funds will partly be taken out of Medicaid, the Division of Commerce and the Department of Tourism.
"WE WON! 5% for everyone education employees, troopers and state police... announcement between House and Senate. Governor agrees," WVEA said in a tweet.
"We have reached a deal. I stood rock solid on the 5% Teacher pay raise and delivered," Justice said. "Not only this, but my staff and I made additional cuts which will give all State employees 5% as well. All the focus should have always been on fairness and getting the kids back in school."
Democratic members of the House of Delegates praised the deal Tuesday.
"Teachers, school service personnel, state employees and their allies have made their voices heard the past 9 days," House Minority Leader Tim Miley said. "House Democrats were pleased to rally with these educators, and we thank them for putting pressure on the governor and the Legislature to act."