More than ever, public workers in our union — and those whom we would love to join our cause — must be vigilant in regards to the Legislative session. As the session passes the halfway point, we are facing attacks on several fronts.

DHHR social workers need to pay special attention to Senate Bill 312, which cleared one Senate committee this week. It has advanced to the Committee on Health and Human Resources, which may take it up next week.

Boiled down, the bill would eliminate the Social Work license requirement for the jobs many of our members and their fellow workers fulfill. UE Local 170’s leadership believes this watering-down of qualifications is dangerous for the vulnerable populations of our state.

That’s not the only legislation on the subject. SB 339, a bill that approves DHHR rules, incorporates material from SB 352, and has passed the Senate and gone to the House. HB 4128 and HB 4291 also address the topic.

That’s not the only “opposed legislation” that moved through the Legislative pipeline this week.

SB 616 moved through the Senate Committee on Government Organization with only a minor change. If you have a problem at work and need to file a grievance — it could happen to any state worker — this should worry you.

As a recap, SB 616 would:

  • No longer allow members to be representatives in predetermination hearings or any other meeting that could result in a disciplinary action.
  • Limit representatives to those fellow workers “in the same unit as the grievant,” a clause the bill does not further refine.
  • Limit employees to representing four grievants per year.
  • Limit time granted off for grievant and representative to four hours for all procedures combined, no matter how many levels are involved.
  • Expand the “first reponsibility of any employee is the work assigned to the employee” to potentially throw a roadblock on a representation.
  • Provide that grievants who are dismissed, suspended or suffer other economic damage may proceed only to Level 2 instead of Level 3.
  • In a circuit court appeal by either party, force a grievant to pay attorney’s fees and court costs if he or she loses.

This strikes the union leadership as a vindictive attack on public workers in general, and possibly the union in particular. Please contact members of the Judiciary Committee, the next stop for this bill, to voice your opposition. There is strength in numbers, so we need your help.

We have hardly forgotten House Bill 4605, which has resurfaced on the agenda of House Health and Human Resources Committee. That would allow the DHHR to transfer the control of state hospitals to “regional mental health centers or regional intellectual disability facilities.” possibly WVU or another bodies.

That committee meets again at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11. We are strong at Sharpe, Bateman, Lakin and other hospitals, and those members need to contact committee members in large number to oppose this bill. UE 170 has long fought such transfers, as well as outright privatization.