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W.Va. Senate sends message: Public worker strikes illegal

CHARLESTON — After two years of work stoppages by teachers and school service personnel, the West Virginia Senate made it clear Monday that strikes and work stoppages by public employees are against the law.

Senate Bill 11, declaring work stoppages or strikes by public employees to be unlawful, passed 21-12. The only Republican to vote against the bill was Sen. David Stover, R-Wyoming, a retired school teacher. The bill now heads to the House of Delegates.

Strikes and work stoppages by public employees are already illegal. A 1990 decision by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in a dispute between the Jefferson County Board of Education and teachers in that county states “public employees have no right to strike in the absence of express legislation or, at the very least, appropriate statutory provisions for collective bargaining, mediation and arbitration.”

“It basically just states what is already the legal opinion of the Supreme Court,” said Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson. “It’s not changing anything legal.”

SB 11 takes that decision and puts it directly into state code. Any county board of education employee would be considered a participant in a work stoppage or strike if they don’t report to work as required. The bill would allow county school boards to consider any such participation grounds for dismissal.

The bill prohibits school employees from using personal leave during work stoppages and strikes and prohibits county school boards from paying prorated salaries or hourly pay for any days missed by the school employee during a work stoppage or strike and requires the sums to be forfeited.

SB 11 also prevents county boards from using accrued instructional time or alternative methods of instruction to make up lost days of instruction due to a work stoppage or strike. It prohibits the state Board of Education from granting waivers to county school boards to meet the 200-day employment term for the employee or the 180-day minimum instructional time.

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