With the final adjournment of the 2nd Session of the 81st Legislature now in the history books, UE Local 170 Vice President Chris Wolford looks back at this year's legislative session, the political action work of the local over the past year and the plans for the coming year.
UE Local 170 members started legislative work early last year and this year we started visiting the legislature during the three day interim sessions starting in September. Amoung our goals was to have DHHR and the Department of Corrections included under the protection of the state OSHA law. It is only a matter of time before a worker is killed at one of the state hospitals. We also sought to modify and improve the grievance law to enshrine the right to representation and protect against retaliation of grievants. We also worked have seniority protection expanded to include job bidding and transfer rights. At this time we don't have such protection and the current situation results in a large number of grievances being filed due to blatant favoritism by management.Although it isn't nearly enough, the Legislature did include the Governor's request for "modest pay raise" for state workers in its budget. State workers will receive a $504 pay raise effective July 1, 2014. In meetings with legislators throughout the past year, UE Local 170 members lobbied for an across the board pay raise for state workers.
We were able to find sponsors for our bills and during the regular legislative session we followed the progress of each bill and met with the leadership of various senate and legislative committees to advocate for passage. Regardless of our hard work, none of our bills made it out of committee to the house or senate floor for a vote. We have seen the influence that money has and how it corrupts the political process. We have seen those who claimed to support us play political games become reluctant to actively support our legislation Though it can be discouraging at first, there are some lessons learned and some success from all of this hard work. We have had the most interaction with committee leadership, the most assistance from friendly legislators and the most membership involvement in this process than ever before. We have also seen that that we are a growing power despite the game playing. Our members were introduced to the Legislature twice during Presidents Day and in November we had a very successful turnout of members for our first ever political action conference in Charleston where members learned about the legislative process.
What is to be done? We intend to get a running start this Summer at the legislative interim sessions as we have the past two years. But we need your involvement at the chapter level to follow our legislative efforts and let Delegates and Senators from your chapters know that you want their active support for the legislation that is important to us. This means phone calls, letters and inviting them to chapter meetings. If we ever hope to achieve dignity and fairness in the workplace then its time to get serious with these politicians. We would also like to see more of you join us in lobbing at the legislature at least once to gain a feel for the process. We also plan to have our second political action conference this Fall and hope the turnout is even better than last year.