Many state employees — and therefore, members of this union — are essential workers during this COVID-19 crisis, dealing with the public daily. We work at state hospitals and nursing homes, DHHR public buildings and other venues.

From the beginning, we have demanded hazard pay. But more important, we need basic protection from the virus, and we are not always getting it.

Nona Ringler, a 10-year UE Local 170 member who is a child support specialist in the DHHR Kanawha County office, sums it up:

“Because we deal with clients coming in the office, we are at high risk of
contracting COVID-19. We don’t have gloves. We should all have gloves. There
should be a supply of gloves at the front desk for incoming clients. We should have
a clear, written safety protocol to address the safety concerns amid this crisis.

“Workers and supervisors alike are confused and underinformed regarding the new
leave policies. This should be clear and widely distributed so everyone risking their
health going to work knows what they have available if they get sick.

“Work-at-home protocols need to be clear, written, and distributed to workers.”

During April, we took our case to the state media, and to the governor. As for Governor Justice, he has steadfastly fought against layoffs and furloughs that could have resulted from the COVID-19 related budget shortfall, but he has not addressed our concerns.

Our press release was run as a guest column by the Register-Herald of Beckley.

The letter to Governor Justice, in which we issue a number or requests and demands.

Here is the response from the governor’s office:

We hope something positive comes from our efforts, whether in the short or long term. Whatever the case, we, members of the West Virginia Public Workers Union, cannot stop Demanding Respect. We always need your help.

UE on the Front Lines