March 8th, 2018

You have won! Declare victory and feel proud. It is a win for you and your students.

No one could have predicted our level of success at the beginning of this process.
Without our united efforts none of this would have happened.
Your dedication, your voice and your passion made this possible.
Educators came together to ensure that the legislature took the steps to raise salaries and keep West Virginia more competitive and attract and retain the best teachers, create a process to establish a long-term fix for PEIA, stop the bill to eliminate payroll deduction and stop the bill to eliminate seniority in RIF/transfer.
On Tuesday, March 6, all parties honored the agreement we made in good faith and everyone --- educators, school support staff, and all public employees will receive a 5% raise.
The dedication of educators in all 55 of our locals made this possible.
Educators are thrilled to be going back to their classrooms and cannot wait to start working with their students again.

 

Salary increase – we increased from an initial proposal of $404/$202 in 2018-19 to $2020/$1010

The $2020/$1010 (dollar-wise) represents the largest salary increase education employees have received since 1985.
This increase is a long overdue first step.
The fact remains that West Virginia educators remain among the lowest paid in the nation and attracting qualified educators will become more and more difficult.
This increase will only truly make a real difference if the task force on PEIA is successful.
The increase is anticipated to move us from 48th to 43rd in the national rankings.



State of the Legislature –

Moving forward, we will need to work with the legislature to make further improvements and to do that it will be critical that we elect legislators that are willing to work with us to move West Virginia forward.
Our voices cannot fall silent now. You must stay engaged.
Fully funding education and supporting our students must be a priority of any candidate seeking to represent our communities, our students and our educators.

 

PEIA

We have tremendous progress on health care thus far -- our initial walkouts led to:

 the elimination of the Go 365 program and
the calculations of premiums based on Total Family Income, and
most importantly, they resulted in a 17-month moratorium on any changes to PEIA.

That means PEIA participants will NOT see an increase in health insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, Maximum Out-Of-Pocket spending limits, or their prescription drug plan through July 1, 2019.
But we still have a long way to go to find a long-term fix.

Our actions over the last few weeks convinced the governor to move quickly by establishing a task force that will work to find REAL long—term solutions to PEIA and not just throw money at the problem as a band-aid that will fall off again and again.

Simply putting additional funding into the plan is not a fix and is not sustainable over the long haul. To change the structure of the plan and explore multiple plan options there was not enough time in the session.
Health care and pharmaceutical companies are some of the highest funded lobbyists and contribute vast amounts of money to politicians. We did not need the work of fixing PEIA to be dictated by health care and Big Pharma lobbyists.

The task force will operate outside of their influences

Experts are needed to help find the solution and they are represented on the Task Force. Prescription drugs make up the largest portion of the medical inflation costs of the plan. We need the experts and research to show how other plans, including Medicare/Medicaid, are better able to handle those inflationary costs.
The governor and the chairman of the task force have said that all aspects of the plan are up for review -  including seeing if there is a better way to provide health care to employees, access issues for those living on border counties and of course a continuous funding source so employees do not bear the burden of the cost of medical inflation.

The first meeting of the task force will occur on March 13th.
The task force will be made up of:

The Governor’s Chief of Staff, who shall serve as Chair of the Task Force,
One current member of the PEIA Finance Board,
Three members of the Senate, with two from the Republican Party and one being Democratic Party,
Three members of the House, with two from the Republican Party and one from the Democratic Party,
One from the WVEA,
One from the AFT-WV,
One from the WVSSPA,
Five members who will be appointed by the Governor who are

Three full—time public employees
Two retired public employees

Seven members who are knowledgeable about the insurance industry and business

We are confident that the members chosen here will bring helpful ideas, resources and research to the table.
We will be involved at every step of the process and regularly report on each of the meetings
We will be keeping you informed of progress and – if we see anything that threatens the long-term sustainability of our Health Care will be calling on you to make your voice heard once again.
You will have an opportunity for input at a public hearing that will occur in all 55 counties. We will let you know when/where those hearings are scheduled.
We have used the Task Force model to find long-term solutions to problems before. One that comes to mind is the task force that dealt with the liability of the Teachers Retirement System. TRS was once the worst funded pension plan in the nation, it is now a model on how to retire debt in state pension plans.

 

Elimination of seniority

We have assurance that this will not be amended into any bill moving in the legislature and if one House breaks the deal the other will not take it up
We will have to elect friendlier legislators in May and November or this issue is likely to reappear next session.



Elimination of payroll deduction

The bill has passed the Senate this session and has been sitting in the House while negotiations were going on. The House leadership has assured us the bill will not move this session.
Keep in mind – both the House and the Senate passed the bill last year. It passed very late in the session and they did not have time to overturn the governor’s veto of the bill.
This is a bill that Republicans in the legislature want badly. It is simply an attempt to eliminate your voice on discussions and weaken our organizations. It is a typical bill that is introduced in states that have anti-work, anti-union legislators.

 

Another session next year – we need change!

We will be faced with this all over again next session unless we change some of the faces in the legislature
We do have friends in both the House and the Senate – on both sides of the aisle --  but there are simply not enough of them. We must work to ensure legislators are fully committed to funding education and working with educators to do what is right for our students and our communities.
We must also work to get rid of legislators that have opposed our efforts and continue to harm workers, students and public education
134 legislators comprise the WV Legislature. 117 of those seats are up. Only 17 Senators are not facing re-election this year.
We must work to reelect our friends and find some new friends to replace some of our villains in the Legislature.
Unfortunately, the Senate President is not up for reelection this year. But if the Senate becomes lead by the Democrats he will no longer be in the position of Senate President and will, in effect, be neutered.



Each local must begin working now to endorse pro-education/pro-employee candidates and developing a plan to get them elected.

 

#55Strong