CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Thousands of union workers from across West Virginia descended on the state capitol Saturday to begin what they say is a fight to take back the legislature for the people of the state.

The “Mountaineer Workers Rising” rally drew a crowd estimated at nearly 7,000 including iron workers, general laborers, school teachers and coal miners. They yelled and screamed with union leaders against things like the effort to change the prevailing wage, right-to-work, coal mine safety and public charter schools.

“They say ‘we need to modify the system,'” Teamsters Union General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall said about prevailing wage. “I say, they want to cut your wages because that’s what they’re going to do.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten criticized lawmakers for what she described as their effort to take away funding from public schools by setting up charter schools when they should be giving more funding to public schools and spending money on fixing things like the state’s transportation system.

“Instead of doing something that hurts this state why don’t they invest in road repair?” Weingarten said.

But theme of the day was clearly to energize members of organized labor to go back to their communities and register their family members and friends to vote. Speaker after speaker urged them not only to register but to vote in the 2016 election.  Voter registration cards were handed out at the rally.

In a fiery speech, United Mine Workers Union President Cecil Roberts chastised union workers for not going to the polls last year.

“What is a disgrace is all we had to do is go to the polls and vote,” Roberts said.

The Cabin Creek native then called for an uprising of workers and their families to take back the statehouse.

“What I propose starting this moment, in this place, right here in West Virginia–all of these attacks across this nation on everybody that works for a living–I say, let’s start it right now, right here, let’s have, starting today, the biggest unarmed insurrection in this nation’s history,” Roberts said.

Several speakers focused on national labor issues and took time to criticize Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a likely presidential candidate, and the vote in his state’s General Assembly Friday to become a right-to-work state.

There were a handful of state lawmakers standing behind the speakers Saturday, some of them were introduced, but they did not speak to the crowd.

Republicans have the majority in the House of Delegates and state Senate for the first time since the 1930s. A bill changing the prevailing wage has passed both the House and Senate and is awaiting the signature of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The Coal Jobs Safety Act is also pending before the governor. The bill creating public charter schools is before the House Finance Committee with less than a week to go before the end of the session. The right-to-work bill is dead for this session.

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Comments

  • J Sammy

    RIGHT TO WORK = Right for me to go to work and not be threatened because I have different values and ethics than union thugs.

  • Watching

    Wake up WV, Cecil Roberts is awful rich to be a communist......reminds you of Putin don't it. Lots of money from other peoples work while he never lifts a dime. If he really cared, why didn't he go into the coal mining business and employee you?

  • David

    We're those trucks cited for illegal parking?

  • David

    Teamsters = organized crime.

  • David

    Cecil Roberts backing people who have destroyed coal in WV and continues to do so!

  • Rodney Hytonen

    "conservative"= CORPORATIST.

    All they care about is taking our resources and selling them elsewhere, making us bid against countries that pay FIVE TIMES as much - and for our OWN gas!

    And they've gotten away with it for two centuries by bribing us and making us scapegoat each other ("conservative values.")
    It's time to make them pay for the mess these EXTRACTIONISTS have made of West Virginia -
    Near the first in natural resources -
    yet near last in individual income, wealth and living standards..

    • GFV

      Should've finished high school pal!

      • VATD

        WHY? he had a yunyan job a waiting on him after he got his 15 year old cousin pregnant.

  • David

    The unions are the special interest we don't need anymore of !

    • Nicholi

      6800 of the 7000 member rent a mob were bused in from some bankrupt state like New Jersey. Too funny. Evidently none of them saw the results from the last election in West Virginia. The only thing they will be taking back is another butt whooping.

  • David

    Oil and gas companies don't pay taxes... What are you smoking ?

  • David

    Communists and their useful idiots out in full force to intimidate and agitate !

    A large portion of this rent-a-mob was from out of state just look at all the out of state license plates!

    These poor simple fools out campaigning for the party thats putting them out of work!

  • Rodney Hytonen

    BTW, the term "THUGS" has most historically been used (as in "Gun thugs") IN WEST VIRGINIA to describe the Pinkertons hired by the robber barons to evict the families of miners who threatened to unionize.
    Today's robber barons (THEY'RE BACK! - as Oil and Gas drillers) are the police that YOUR taxes pay to oppress US for gas/oil company profits.
    And they don't even pay any taxes!

  • Martinsburg Resident

    Hey West Virginians... these Union power hungry blowhards are trying to use you again! These same so-called leaders STAND BEHIND DEAR LEADER BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA 100%! They do not care one bit about you or your families. If they do not stand behind conservative values RUN from them... fast!

  • Stevie

    Bring in on! More money in Trumka and Cecil's pockets. That is our objective, right?

    • pc

      Gee, never thought Cecil could tear his lips away from Barry Barack's posterior long enough to put in an appearance in Charleston. He talks "tough" about Obammy's coal policies, but then he's back there in DC schmoozing with the likes of the botox bimbo Pelosi and the walkin cadaver, Harry Reid!! Sadly, the average range and file miner can't figure this out and keep a bozo like him as president.

      • COALBLOODED

        Aint that the truth... There all in bed together. Cecil is just as bad as anybody else. He is such a joke, the problem lies with union officials getting a different pension than regular coal miners. Thats where the corruption lies and why the infamous Cecil Roberts is under the sheets with Barrack Obama and the crippling democratic party.

  • zero tolerance

    .05% of 5% of WV workforce

    • Rodney Hytonen

      MOST of which (majority of the WV workforce) work for scab WalMart - who don't pay them enough to eat, so they need YOUR taxes in food stamps.

      -and you say we don't need unions...

      AND it could even be a lot worse - "right to work" (FOR EVEN LESS!)

      Wise up - RISE up, West Virginia!
      "Conservatism" is nothing but a way to get MORE of your money for corporate profits,
      at the cost of even MORE of your health (deregulation.)

      • Richard

        How about a state that only pays their DOH workers less than 10$ per hour to plow snow. You should be ashamed that our public employees make so little that they have to live off the tax payer with food stamps.

        • Jake

          If the state was not wasting as much money as it presently does on the teachers and their retirements and benefits, then there would be ample to pay state workers a fair wage.

  • Rodney Hytonen

    Sounded like DEMOCRACY to me.

    • ViennaGuy

      I hate to break it to you, Rodney, but we do not, and have never, lived in a democracy ... this is a representative republic.

      • AJ

        We are living in a oligarchy now thanks to the Koch Brothers.

        • ViennaGuy

          LOL! If the Koch Brothers had 5% of the power and authority some of you think they have, you'd have had a stroke already.

          If you want to talk about an oligarchy(do you even know what an oligarchy is?), look no further than the marriage of the Democratic Party and Wall Street. THERE is your oligarchy.

          • ViennaGuy

            HH, yes, I do believe that. The fact remains that the Democratic Party took more money from Wall Street in the 2014 election cycle than the Republican Party did. The Democratic Party has repeatedly aligned itself with Wall Street bigshots like Tom Steyer and George Soros. See for yourself what Democrat Robert Reich says:

            http://billmoyers.com/2014/12/09/wall-streets-democrats/

            Or is he wrong?

          • Vienna Gal

            Really, ViennaGuy? I used to think you were smarter than that!

          • Hop'sHip

            You really believe Wall Street is closer to the Democrativ Party than to the Republican Party? Look where they have lately been putting their money. They have too much influence on both parties but It is the Republicans who are carrying their water now as they try to weaken Dodd-Frank.

        • Karie

          AJ nailed it!

  • fighter

    Sounded like terrorism to me....union thugs