CHARLESTON, W.Va. – State employees rallied at the capitol Monday calling for lawmakers to increase their pay, stop mandatory overtime and provide better benefits. They used their President’s Day holiday to travel from all over the state.
“Who are we? UE! Who are we? UE!” workers chanted in the rotunda of the capitol. Chris Wolford, the vice president of West Virginia Public Union Workers Local 170, said the group is raising concerns about a number of job aspects.
“It’s an ongoing situation, not only low pay but high caseloads for DHHR workers, hazardous working conditions for the people in the state institutions, long hours, for instance, for snow plow drivers,” Wolford said.
Louise Quinn, who works in the kitchen at Sharpe Hospital in Lewis County, held up a sign that read, “Stop the attacks on mental health workers.”
She said the mandatory overtime policy is draining.
“I have to be there sometimes from 6 in the morning to 8 at night,” she explained. “It takes a big chunk out of your life when they expect you to come in and fill in on your days off.
“I make $8.67 an hour and I’ve been there almost 10 years!”
The low pay is a constant concern. Wolford said a good example of how concerning is DOH employees, especially those who drive snow plows. He explained they are leaving in record numbers to go to work in the oil and gas industry. That’s because they can more than double their salary and improve their hours.
Wolford stressed whether it’s a snow plow driver or a caseworker at DHHR, low pay is hurting everyone. The employees often don’t stay long and it costs more to hire and retrain a new employee than it would to give seasoned workers a raise.
“To keep pay at such a low rate, it just doesn’t make sense,” Wolford said.