Education, Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

Teacher strike bill becomes law without governor’s signature

MORGANTOWN – The bill spelling out penalties for teachers and school personnel who go on strike has become law, but without the governor’s endorsement.

SB 11 passed the Senate by a 21-12 vote Feb. 22, and passed the House 53-46 March 2. After some amendment adjustments, it completed its legislative journey March 4.

The bill codifies that public employee strikes are illegal and grounds for termination, and says teachers and service personnel won’t get paid for the time they’re participating in an illegal strike. County boards may not permit employees who participate in strikes or work stoppages to use accrued and equivalent instructional time to cancel days lost. Delivery of instruction through alternative methods does not apply and may not be used to cancel days lost.

The state Board of Education may not grant waivers to county boards for not meeting the 200-day minimum employment term or the 180-day instructional term if noncompliance results from a work stoppage or strike.

If an employee remains employed by a county board despite participating in an activity the state BOE determines to be grounds for termination, the county board must withhold that person’s pay for each day of participation. However, those days would be made up at the end of the year, and the person would be paid for that time.

Opponents noted various objections along the way: Strikes are already illegal so the bill isn’t needed; it wont prevent any future strikes; it violates the constitutional right to assemble to seek redress; it’s anti-labor retribution for the 2018 and 2019 strikes.

Bill supporters said kids suffer when teachers strike; the bill creates accountability; and it requires county superintendents to take action and not cave to the unions; it affects all state employees but makes clear that teachers and school employees can assemble and express their grievances, but not on public time.

A Wednesday update to the bill’s status shows that it passed into law without the signature of Gov. Jim Justice. Justice declined to comment on his decision. The Senate president and House speaker also declined to comment on Justice’s decision.

So far, 25 bills have passed both houses. Eleven have been signed; this is the only one to become law unsigned. Last year, he signed 351 and vetoed six. None became law unsigned.

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