© Brad McElhinny/WV Metro NewsWest Virginia state Senate passes bill cracking down on teacher strikes
West Virginia's state Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that declares strikes by teachers and other public employees are illegal.
In a 21-12 vote, the Senate passed a bill that says "Public employees in West Virginia have no right, statutory or otherwise, to engage in collective bargaining, mediation, or arbitration, and any work stoppage or strike by public employees is hereby declared to be unlawful."
The bill comes after teachers in West Virginia went on strike for nine days in 2018 and again for two days in 2019.
The bill says that teachers who participate in a strike should be terminated and if they are not the county board of education should withhold pay from the teacher for however many days they participated in the strike.
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Schools are no longer allowed to close in anticipation of strikes, either. If they do, extracurricular activities must also be canceled for the day.
"This bill simply clarifies that it was not the Legislature's intent to facilitate illegal work stoppages. This is not a retaliatory bill. This is about making certain our kids, our most precious resource continue to be our priority," Republican Senate Education Chairwoman Patricia Rucker said.
Some Democrats in the state Senate criticized the bill.
"This bill does nothing to move West Virginia forward. It does nothing to further that profession. It's meanspirited. I think it's in retaliation for people standing up for what they believed in," state Senator Mike Caputo (D) said.
There is an identical bill in the House of Delegates that has yet to pass. The bill has to be passed in the House and signed by the governor in order to become law.