W.Va. employees talk legislative concerns

The Inter-Mountain photo by Brooke Binns A variety of signs are on display during Monday’s informative meeting in Beverly, which attracted state workers and public education employees concerned about legislative issues.

BEVERLY — State workers and public education employees came together for an informational meeting to discuss legislative issues in Randolph County Monday.

Thomas Bane, West Virginia Education Association region representative, said the main goal for Monday’s meeting in Beverly was to inform the public about what is going on in Charleston during the current session of the West Virginia Legislature.

“The goal, in a nutshell, is really to get the public informed about what’s going on in Charleston — and from there, they’ll be making a decision to see who they’re going to vote for in November,” Bane said.

He added while the state of West Virginia is currently seeing a shortage of teachers, he believes legislators practically encourage them to leave.

“I think it’s almost a bit comical that the education committee in Charleston says they value teachers; yet, we’re over 700 short in the state, and they continue to throw things at the educators, almost enticing them to leave the state,” he said.

The Associated Press reports public school employees in some parts of the state are considering a one-day walkout to protest low pay, rising insurance costs and frustration with politicians’ talk of only 1 percent raises.

Kristie Skidmore, president of the American Federation of Teachers for Randolph County, said local workers are planning and organizing meetings.

“We’re organizing to prepare people for the worst-case scenario by planning events and only hoping that the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen,” she said. “We’re planning events that would involve all state employees, community members and parents because education and the concerns that we have … affect all of us.”

AFT West Virginia representative Frank Caputo said state employees are actively paying attention to what is taking place and what is being proposed in Charleston. He added proposals to take away seniority for some workers and other issues and concerns about West Virginia’s Public Employees Insurance Agency are creating “unrest” among workers.

“Our goal is to lobby those delegates down there that are anti-working family and trying to take away employee rights as well as not giving the people what they deserve,” Caputo said.

A rally has been slated to take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 9 in front of the Randolph County Courthouse. Anyone who plans to attend is encouraged to make signs to support the following message: “It’s time to make a change and make West Virginia state workers and their families a priority.”