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State workers planning local rally

BEVERLY — State employees are coming together to host a local rally to share information regarding legislative issues.

Ellen Shepherd, president of West Virginia Education Association for Randolph County, said the goal of the rally is to inform individuals about issues being discussed in Charleston during the legislative session.

“There is a lot of misinformation being spread on Facebook; there are a lot of questions about insurance and policies being presented — so we’ll have representatives from both unions there to help answer questions and get information out there,” Shepherd said.

A discussion will be led by Shepherd and Kristie Skidmore, president of American Federation of Teachers for Randolph County, starting at 5 p.m. Monday at the Beverly Volunteer Fire Department. Before the discussion begins, a meet and greet will take place beginning at 4:30 p.m. Shepherd said all state workers are encouraged to attend the rally, adding any concerned community members also are welcome.

Shepherd said individuals in the area have been working to contact local legislators.

“We also plan to look at taking some sort of action like a petition or giving people the information needed in order to contact their legislators to encourage them to be proactive in making the changes that need to be made to protect education and state workers,” she said.

Topics to be discussed during the rally include West Virginia’s Public Employees Insurance Agency, seniority, school vouchers and other issues or concerns related to state workers.

Delegate Bill Hartman, D-Randolph, said PEIA is a “hot topic” in Charleston, and he believes legislators have a responsibility to state employees to take a stand for them.

“We, the minority, will be introducing a bill in the future that would do away with the PEIA board and put the responsibility for the administration and PEIA policies back on the Legislature, so the people would have a voice that way,” he said. “This bill would really reorganize the way PEIA operates.

“We have to take a stand,” Hartman continued. “We have a responsibility to our employees to be more considerate than we have been in the past few years. There were some changes made in the board last year that took people with experience off the board, and I think we’re seeing the consequences now. You just can’t rely strictly on numbers, there is a personal side to all of these issues.”

Individuals are encouraged to wear red on Friday in support of public education and blue on Monday to support all state employees, as part of a statewide initiative.

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