Labor leaders to speak at informational meeting

Staff Report

POINT PLEASANT — The itinerary for this Saturday’s informational meeting about the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) and other legislation, is shaping up.

The meeting, set for noon at The Meeting House on Jackson Ave., is being sponsored by the Mason County Democratic Women’s Organization. This gathering is for all city, county, and state public employees and interested members of the public.

“All public employees who are currently insured by Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) are urged to attend,” Jerrie Howard, president of Mason County Democratic Women, said. “We want all workers to know that we are behind them, that we support their efforts to prevent loss of benefits and increased premiums because of current proposed legislation and to secure a decent wage increase. We want them to know that someone does care about their plight.”

Howard explained, at Saturday’s meeting, attendees will have the opportunity to have their questions answered by several labor leaders, including, Joshua Sword from the AFL-CIO; Elaine Harris from the Communication Workers of America (CWA); Brandon Tinney from the American Federation of Teachers, (AFT); Ben Barkey, regional representative for the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA); Dwayne Russell, Mason County Education Association (MCEA); and Jamie Mallory, assistant to the executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association (WVSSPA).

In addition, Delegate Scott Brewer (D-New Haven) who represents the 13th District in the House of Delegates, will be on hand to speak and to answer questions as well as moderate the meeting. Brianne Solomon, (D-Culloden), a candidate for the 14th District in the House of Delegates, and a teacher at Hannan Junior/Senior High School, will also be speaking.

According to the Associated Press, on Tuesday Gov. Jim Justice (R) told teachers in Lewisburg that their health insurance coverage should remain unchanged in the next fiscal year. The AP also reported his chief of staff, Mike Hall, says he’s talked to the head of PEIA and its finance board will “freeze it, in other words keep what you have today … for the next fiscal year.”

Howard said this was not the first time issues with PEIA have arisen.

“Apparently, a year wasn’t long enough to study the issue,” she said. “Very likely, all public employees will face the same crisis next year and continue to be underpaid.”

Howard continued: “Teachers, who will be the hardest hit by current proposals, face many other areas of concern including elimination of accrued sick leave, cuts in personal days, elimination of seniority rights in reduction in force and transfers, changes in the curriculum, and elimination of the Secretary of Arts and Education while legislators push for increases in private schools and home-schooling programs, programs that will take funds from public education. Here is an opportunity for all public employees to find out what is going on in the State Capitol. Public employees need to support one another. We are in this fight together.”

On Wednesday, the AP was reporting the House of Delegates voted to seek a delay in expected health insurance coverage increases for public employees, while a House committee passed its own version of pay raises for them. A House resolution passed 97-1 Wednesday will ask the PEIA to hold off on changes next fiscal year out of concern they would significantly increase out-of-pocket costs. Last week the Senate approved annual pay raises of 1 percent for teachers over a five-year period. On Wednesday, the House Finance Committee unanimously voted to give 2 percent pay increases next year and 1 percent increases in each of the following three years. It also would apply to State Police and service personnel. House Speaker Tim Armstead says the state can afford greater salary increases in the coming year.”

Following the informational meeting, teachers and public employees will stage a rally at the Mason County Courthouse on Sixth St., beginning at 2 p.m. this Saturday. The group will then march south on Main St., then north on Viand St. Activities should conclude by 4 p.m.

Staff Report