CHARLESTON, W. Va — The snow and bone-chilling temperatures didn’t stop state-wide union workers from rallying against the prevailing wage law change at the State Capitol Monday afternoon in Charleston.
The Show Up and Stand Up Rally was led by Senator Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 02) who called for a public show of opposition towards many bills Republican leaders are moving this Regular Legislative Session.
The bill would repeal parts of the prevailing wage requirement for construction of public improvement projects. The state Democratic Party and the West Virginia AFL-CIO were among the groups who spoke out about building a better West Virginia as union workers chanted in agreement. Kessler also honored veterans this President’s Day who have served the state.
Matt Ali, a labor worker from the Local Union 49 in Wheeling, said they have every right to be recognized for all their hard work.
“There’s a lot of people that want to complain about out-of-state workers that are coming here on these pipe lines and taking our jobs, but we are West Virginia. We’re the ones out here building the state every day and we’re fighting for our pay. We’re trying to raise a family and build a house, ” said Ali.
Ali said he had trouble making ends meet, so he had to move out of state for eight years.
“I came back to West Virginia because the work here was good now. Now they want to take that away by cutting our wages,” he said, “They say it’s to save the state money, but all it’s going to do is hurt West Virginia families in the long run. It’s going to affect everybody — our education systems and our jails. It all starts with what you pay your workers.”
Dan Ferrell, a carpenter at the Local Union 604, traveled to Charleston from Morgantown. He said things shouldn’t have to change if the workers are doing their jobs.
“Why change things that aren’t broken? I mean basically it’s been this way for 60 years and we’ve had good union safety, good union work here in the state, and we’d like to remain that way,” said Ferrell.
Another carpenter from the same union was there to have his voice heard. Rick Ripley said they can’t be picked on any longer.
“The Senators and Congressmen work for us and we just want to be treated fairly like everyone else,” said Ripley.
Protestors showed their state pride by singing along to a cover of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” along the front steps of the State Capitol building to end a bitter cold outdoor rally.
The bill is now pending in the House of Delegates for consideration.