(02/22/2018)
By Bob Weaver

Calhoun Schools will participate in a state-wide two-day walkout Thursday and Friday in protest of wages and benefits.

Calhoun Superintendent of Schools told the Herald Wednesday the system will be going everything possible to help students who are food dependent on school breakfasts and lunches.

Whytsell said she asked county schools to give our World Changers food packs before they leave school Wednesday, and to coordinate food efforts if the walk-out continues next week.

She said the system will be using grant money to make backpacks for an extended outage, similar to the ones that are sent home with students, and that parents will be notified of pick-up points.

"I appreciate your patience and understanding as we go through the next few weeks. As with any trying time everyone is anxious and nervous. We are a family and with all families when things get tough we need to stick together. If you know of a parent, student, or teacher that needs help or assistance please let us know," Whytsell said.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning state employees that they are breaking state law, and could be facing repercussions.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said he is disappointed that "union bosses" are still proceeding with plans for a statewide walkout.

"For leadership to still call for a strike is beyond unconscionable," he said. "You're locking the doors to our schools because the union leadership didn't get what they wanted."

During a heated session, some legislators introduced a bill proposing taking away retirement benefits from teachers representing the union for the time they were spending in Charleston.

The issues got so heated this week, that a six hour recess was called.

"The Senate and House both passed a bill that decreased the original proposal from 5% total down to 4% total. We feel like this is a slap to the face, and we aren't taking that deal," said Craig Arthur, WVEA Building Representative for Calhoun Middle/High School.

That bill went to Gov. Justice to sign Wednesday night.

West Virginia teachers are among the lowest paid in the USA.

The legislature is passing a temporary fix to PEIA benefits.

Jacob McCumbers, local president of the WVEA, said "On Thursday and Friday Calhoun educators will be in Charleston along with other counties and state employees to show support, while others will be staying in the county and picketing in Grantsville on the town bridge and parking lot."

"This will continue and further action will take place if need be, based on union leaders decisions," McCumbers said.

Calhoun teachers, service personnel and state employees participated in "walk-ins" at Grantsville and Arnoldsburg last week.

Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers — West Virginia, said the Senate proposal is moving in the wrong direction and is insufficient to stop a planned walkout of teachers and school service personnel this Thursday and Friday.

"These folks are frustrated. They want to see something that will actually pull us out of 48th in the country," Campbell said .

The issues got so heated, that a six hour recess was called.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement to educators and service personnel, blaming Democrats for the situation and saying he and fellow Republicans are trying to be "cautious and prudent" with what they have offered.

Brian Abraham, general counsel for Gov. Jim Justice, said he thinks "the law is pretty clear" that the widespread work stoppages planned for Thursday and Friday are illegal.

See TEACHERS, SERVICE PERSONNEL AND STATE EMPLOYEES DEMONSTRATE OVER WAGES-BENEFITS IN GRANTSVILLE AND ARNOLDSBURG - State Officials Say Strike "Imminent"


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