Senate Bill 616, which attacks our rights under the West Virginia public employees’ grievance procedure, was reported to the Senate floor Monday morning.

As a recap, the bill would:

  • Limit the number of grievances in which an employee representative can serve to four per year.
  • Potentially reduce the amount of paid time off allowed for grievance preparation, both for the grievant and representative. Those workers would be limited to four hours paid time off “for all grievance proceedings combined, regardless of how many procedural levels are involved.”
  • Clarify that representatives shall not be permitted to use work time to perform grievance activities “if the employing state agency determines that the representative activities interfere with the assigned duties and responsibilities of the fellow employee representative.” Conceivably, this clause could be used to strategically block a member from representation duties altogether.
  • Clarify that employees are not to use state vehicles to travel to or from grievances.
  • Eliminates the grievant’s ability to file a written request to have the grievant’s identity rremoved from any files kept by the employer one year after the conclusion of the grievance
  • Stipulate that when a grievant has been discharged, suspended without pay, demoted or reclassified resulting in a loss of pay or benefits, he or she may skip to Level 2 mediation – instead of Level 3. That would prolong the contesting of discipline that results in economic damage, a process that already takes way too long.

The bill advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee late Friday, despite not being listed on the agenda earlier in the day. It underwent First Reading today (Monday); it is up for Second Reading and potential amendments Tuesday; a Third Reading and final vote is likely Wednesday.

If the bill passes, it goes to the House of Delegates for committee assignment. The 60-day session ends March 7.

Other bills on the union’s radar:

  • SB 820, a disconcerting measure for workers at hospitals such as Sharpe, Bateman, Lakin, etc. It stipulates that “The Department of Health and Human Resources is authorized to transfer ownership of any land and buildings which it has owned, constructed, maintained, and leased to any comprehensive regional mental health center or comprehensive intellectual disability facility operated by a local nonprofit organization, if all the following conditions are satisfied.”
  • SB 217: Requiring DHHR collaborate with Workforce Development Board and WV Division of Personnel for job placement. Passed Senate; in House Health and Human Resources Committee.
  • SB 291: Requiring PEIA and health insurance providers provide mental health parity. Passed Senate, in House Finance Committee.
  • SB 339: Wide-ranging DHHR rules package that includes a section on social workers licensing. Passed Senate and House, back to Senate to concur on House amendment.
  • HB 2497: Strengthening protections to whistleblowers, and those who are members of employee organizations. Completed; going to Governor.
  • HB 4581: Relating to West Virginia Clearance for Access: Registry and Employment Screening. Passed House; to Senate Health and Human Resources Committee.

The West Virginia primary election is May 12. In the meantime, concerned members and their fellow state workers should not hesitate to contact their Senators and Delegates.