Harrison County teachers, school personnel and public employees hold meeting to voice their concerns

HARRISON COUNTY, W. Va. (WDTV) -- "All of us are needing to do the work, the steps and doing it properly," said J.D. Lister, a teacher at Bridgeport High School.

He says the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) will affect him and his family.

"My wife and I are both on PEIA, she's on my coverage. Premiums are going to increase almost $200 a month," he said.

He along hundreds of other teachers, school personnel and public employees of Harrison County gathered at Jewel City Church on Jan. 30, to voice their concerns and see what to do next.

"Over the past several years, have felt like we have not been heard in Charleston," said Lillie Junkins, president of the Harrison County Education Association.

Leaders from the Harrison County Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, Harrison chapters, say they're working together to get legislation to hear them out.

"Teachers are frankly to a breaking point," said Junkins.

"And everything that needs to happen you know a pay raise, we can fix PEIA, we can keep our seniority," said Renee McLean, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Harrison County.

They say the proposed one percent increase is not enough, especially when premiums in PEIA are going up.

However, they do see a step forward since Governor Jim Justice announced that the Go 365 program is going to be voluntary and with no penalties.

Delegates from the county say they're working hard for them at the capitol.

"We have to find teachers, pay them what they're worth and recognize that they have a significant influence on the lives of all of our children, eight hours a day or more," said Delegate Tim Miley (D-Harrison).

"We're just trying to figure out what changes have been made [PEIA], and how we can make those changes the best for our state employees, moving forward," said Delegate Ben Queen (R-Harrison).

Teachers also hope the community can help.

"Because it affects so many people, we really would like to educate the community about that as well," said Greg Phillips, vice president of the Harrison County Education Association.