March 2020 Newsletter

Previous Issues

UE Local 170 has gone to an e-newsletter format this issue. Current members with valid e-mail addresses should have received this.

State personnel rules suspended during outbreak

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that state employees don’t have to provide a doctor’s certification for being off sick for more than three days, one one several state personnel rules being suspended during the coronavirus emergency.

Four other rules were suspended Thursday:

  • Requiring posting of job openings for 10 days before the position may be filled.
  • Requiring permission to extend temporary classification upgrades.
  • Setting time frames for completion of supervisor and manager trainee courses.
  • Requiring original signatures on certain documents.

The board also approved a motion to bring state agencies in compliance with the federal Family First Coronavirus Response Act.

That law mandates up to two weeks’ paid leave for employees forced to quarantine, two weeks’ paid leave at two-thirds salary for employees required to care for a quarantined family member or a child whose school or child care center is closed because of the pandemic. It also provides additional two-thirds paid leave for up to 10 weeks for employees caring for children unable to attend school or child care.

Grievance procedure on hold indefinitely

The Public Employees Grievance Board is continuing to process newly filed grievances, but proceedings at Level 1, 2 and 3 are continued until further notice.

With no timetable on when things return to normal, it is more important than ever for employees to document unfavorable conditions in the workplace, as well as events leading up to suspension or termination. If you have a questions, please e-mail us at, or leave a message at (304) 347-4396.

UE 170 needs retirees (at $1 a year!)

UE Local 170 has about 100 members in their retiree chapter. Most of them are retired state employees who were not ready to retire from the union.

These are still dues paying members. They pay $1 per year and have the privileges a current members has, except to vote at conventions.

These very knowledgeable folks have worked in state government, so they are familiar with it. And they have helped in the past in many different ways — organizing events, providing representation in grievance proceedings and contacting legislators about bills that would be good for the union.

For instance, they lobbied for the bill the union got introduced to give retirees a $1,000 a year pay raise, and against bills that would be bad for state employees, like not fully funding PEIA.

DOH still hard at work

In this time of “social distancing,” West Virginia’s roadways still need attention, and our hard-working DOH employees are still on the job — with some changes to reduce the number of workers at a given site.

Transportation workers have been divided into two groups, and two-week time periods have been established.

For each time period, one group will work from home, completing a rigorous training course. The other group will continue roadwork and emergency response, while taking precautions to avoid COVID-19 exposure. At the end of two weeks, the groups will switch.

Absentee voting available to all

“By sending an absentee application to all registered voters, it encourages voters to participate in the election in the safest manner possible without having to leave their house,” Warner said in a press release. “Your ballot box is as close as your mailbox.”

The steps to do this:

  1. The voter submits an absentee ballot application to their county clerk;
    (Watch your mail for the COVID-19 card mailed by your County Clerk the first week of April)
  2. Once approved, the county clerk will mail a postage prepaid absentee ballot with instructions and materials to the voter;
  3. The voter marks the absentee ballot according to the instructions and places it in the mail to be postmarked by Election Day, May 12, 2020.

Insulin, mental health parity bills become law

Governor Jim Justice has signed into law several bills that will directly or indirectly affect some or all of our UE Local 170 members.

Two will affect PEIA directly: A new law capping the co-pay on insulin, and another requiring PEIA and private health insurers to provide mental health parity, or in other words putting behavioral health, mental health and substance use disorders on comparable footing with medical and surgical procedures.

The insulin law caps the co-pay at $100 per 30-day supply — well above the more desirable $25 in the original House bill, but the bill probably would not have passed without the Senate’s amendment.

Important note: The insulin law takes effect June 5, as does the mental health parity law. That means you may not see changes in benefits immediately.

Other bills passed include changes in provisional licensing of social workers within the DHHR and adding DHHR applicants to the West Virginia Clearance for Access: Registry and Employment Screening. Back in February, Gov. Justice signed a law strengthens whistleblower protections, and protecting those who wish to join an “employee organization” — such as UE Local 170.

Once again, we thank all who helped us lobby against unfavorable bills such as one restricting representation in the grievance process, and for a number of favorable bills that, sorry to say, did not get off the ground. These same bills will be reintroduced in the 2021 legislative session.

The life and legacy of Mother Jones

The luck of the Irish women.

Mary Harris Jones, or Mother Jones, was born in Cork, Ireland. She and her husband, George Jones, had four children.

She lost George and the children to yellow fever.

Mother Jones

Mother Jones

That is how she got involved with unions. She was considered to be old when the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 burned her home and dress shop. She never again had a home.

She once told a news reporter “her address was where her shoes were.”

But with her Irish eyes a-smilin’, she reinvented herself as Mother Jones, wearing a black antique dress in public and exaggerating her age.

Most American women of the era led quiet homebound lives devoted to their families and were not supposed to have opinions — especially elderly women. If they had opinions, they were not supposed to voice them in public.

Mother Jones visited West Virginia in 1900 just as she started to be a union organizer. She came back several times after. She even organized the women with mop and broom brigades.

In 1902 she was called the most dangerous women in America because she organized miners and their families against mine owners. One of her best quotes, and she had many, was “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

Information and sources are From Mother Jones magazine, and Mother Jones’ biography.

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