State workers gather in front of Randolph County Courthouse

The Inter-Mountain photo by Brooke Binns State workers and supporters in Randolph County rally together outside of the Randolph County Courthouse Friday. From left are Matt Lewis, Kelly Vandevender, Shellie Burda, Samantha Zurbuch and Jill Zurbuch; and back row, Nick Alfred and Christie Alfred.

ELKINS — In an effort to send a message to legislators, state workers gathered en masse in Randolph County Friday.

A rally and informational picket was held Friday evening in front of the Randolph County Courthouse, where state workers and their supporters stood united to send a message.

Matt Lewis, an eighth-grade teacher at Elkins Middle School, said state employees in all 55 counties are united as one.

“We’re saying we’re united in this fight, not only Randolph County but all 55 counties,” Lewis said. “We’re not just teachers or service personnel, we’re united for all West Virginia employees who are facing (Public Employees Insurance Agency) changes, and we want fairness for everyone.”

Despite Gov. Jim Justice’s statement Thursday, announcing that controversial changes to Public Employees Insurance Agency would be delayed for one year, workers in the area remain concerned.

The Inter-Mountain photo by Logan Comer Taking part in a state workers rally in Elkins Friday were, from left, Shane Richardson and Zack Neff, both of whom are Elkins Middle School teachers.

“We don’t want to kick the can down the road on PEIA. We appreciate the freeze, but we want it fixed,” Frank Caputo, American Federation of Teachers representative for West Virginia, said.

In addition, there has been continued debate over going beyond the 1-percent pay increase for teachers recommended by the governor for next year.

“Our people are outraged that Gov. Justice – who is a 1-percenter when you look at his salary — offered this to these people, state employees and teachers,” he said. “We appreciate his efforts, but it is also an insult to offer a 1-percent pay raise.”

The large crowd of workers gathered Friday evening prompted support from passerbys in the form of honking horns and shouts of encouragement.