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W.Va. Legislature Continues to Ignore Real Needs of Workers

(Paul Nyden, a long-time West Virginia labor reporter, will occasionally be contributing to the Teamster Nation blog about issues before the state's Legislature. His latest report follows.)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --The GOP majority of West Virginia Legislature has continued its fight against everyday workers since approving so-called right-to-work legislation and repealing the state’s prevailing wage law last month. Meanwhile, it ignores significant matters on its plate.

Important budget issues have been pushed aside and remain unsolved. They might have to be resolved in a special legislative session, perhaps held in May.

A recent column by Tega McGuffin, an Oak Hill High School teacher and executive board member of state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, stated, “Our roads have potholes. Our public employees are facing draconian benefit cuts and/or premium hikes. Our state and county budgets are facing shortfalls.

“If you have been listening to the proceedings in Charleston then perhaps you haven’t heard of these problems. It seems our current leadership was too preoccupied with a divisive agenda and couldn’t bother themselves with issues that impact our average citizens on a daily basis. … You have seen your state and county governments scale back programs and lay off workers because of the budget deficit,” McGuffin wrote.

West Virginia already has some of the most dilapidated bridges and highways in the United States. But nothing has been done to rectify it.

Among the items lawmakers did devote time to during the final week of its session, however, was the blocking of six gubernatorial appointments to various state boards.

Those rejected included: Kenny Perdue, president of the state AFL-CIO, to the Workforce Development Board; Elaine Harris, international representative for the Communications Workers of America, to the Public Employees Insurance Agency’s Finance Board; and Mike Smith, who represents public employees on the PEIA Board.

After the vote, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D), said, “It’s the first time in my 19 years that I’ve seen conformations used for what were clearly purely political purposes, to target members of labor or Democrats.” 

As the Teamsters said previously, the union will remember these actions (or lack thereof) in November!

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