Groups hold PEIA rallies, encourage voters to hit the polls in November

MORGANTOWN — Satellite rallies across the state were part of the effort to rally ahead of the Nov. 6 election day for public educators and service personnel.

Heather Deluca-Nestor, president of the Monongalia County Education Association, joined her cohorts from Marion and Preston counties at a joint rally in Morgantown on Sunday, announcing their intention to support candidates who specifically support public education.

“We want to flip some seats so we’re protected, so education is protected, so public employees in West Virginia are protected,” she said.

The rally Sunday featured about 70 people, supporting the slate of Democrats running in Monongalia County for the House of Delegates, as well as neighboring county’s candidates.

“Not all of the candidates could make it down to Charleston, and not everyone can make it down to Charleston, either, so we wanted to make sure everybody had their voice heard,” said Allyson Perry, Marion County Education Association president. “That’s what’s most important.”

Nearly seven months have passed since West Virginia teachers stopped working in an effort to earn their first raise in years, but Deluca-Nestor said the 55Strong and 55United movements remained active.

“I don’t think the unified goal has changed,” she said. “We want better conditions for our kids. We want better conditions for the people that take care of West Virginia. That goal hasn’t changed. It’s just — still educating people. That’s always been what we’re about.”

Deluca-Nestor called it disingenuous for any politician to attempt to claim the movement or the results of the teacher work stoppage as their own if they didn’t support the school personnel from the beginning.

“We’re trying to push the candidates that support us, that have supported us from the beginning, that stood on the picket lines with us, in Charleston that called other legislators out and said ‘You are the ones that are stopping this,’ ” she said. “Since then, people have backslid, and they’re trying to say ‘Oh, we’re the ones that supported you from the beginning.’ ”

She added: “But we know that’s not the case.”

Deluca-Nestor and Perry both agreed: West Virginia’s teachers want to be a priority this November and beyond.

“When we have the money in the state that we have, we’re a priority,” Deluca-Nestor said. “We know, in the past, we haven’t been a priority.”

“That’s why we’re here — to remind everyone to vote in November,” Perry said. “And vote for candidates that we know will actually fund and fix PEIA.”

Republican State Senate candidate Mike Oliverio also came to the rally, despite not having been endorsed by those rallying.

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