WV Legislative Majority Puts Profit Over People
For nearly a year now, the hardest working in our communities, those who never had the option of staying at home in the face of this deadly pandemic, have persevered to our benefit. Thanks to them, we have always been able to rely on health and senior care services, groceries, mail delivery, utilities, and the education and care of our children.
So how is the Governor and the West Virginia legislative leadership going to reward our essential workers? By protecting any profit-above-all employer who willfully and unnecessarily puts those employees at risk.
"Just when I thought this leadership had done everything possible to prove they don't care about West Virginia working families, they come back with another piece of legislation that tramples over workers in order to help big-money interests," WV AFL-CIO President Josh Sword said.
Senate Bill 277, introduced by Governor Jim Justice and championed by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, passed the Senate Friday. It would protect businesses that intentionally put their employees at risk of being exposed to COVID – giving rich corporations license to put profit over employee safety.
"While we know that most employers in West Virginia are at least trying to protect their employees during these difficult times, we cannot understand why the governor and legislative leadership are defending those bad actors who purposely put their employees at risk," said Heather Anderson, USW Sub-District Director, whose union represents many frontline workers, including those working in steel and aluminum, healthcare, utilities, basic manufacturing, and even casino workers. "This legislation is way too far reaching, and essentially rewards gross negligence and reckless conduct."
Andy Walters, WV AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, noted: "The legislators who support working families voiced serious concern regarding the broad protections the legislation offered to business interests, and voted against it. Unfortunately, they were outnumbered. We need to remember who is doing this to us and vote them out in the next election."
Joyce Gibson, Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU District 1199, said her union has spent countless hours advocating to protect front-line health care workers, who risk their lives every day to fight back against this deadly pandemic.
"Instead of protecting our healthcare heroes that are working on the front lines taking care of our families and loved ones, the West Virginia legislative leadership is more focused on immunity for business and out-of-state corporations," Gibson said. "While front line health care workers are going into the negative balance and not being paid for sick leave while being exposed at work to COVID 19, it's shameful that the WV legislative leadership's top priority is immunity and profit for big business."
Mark Federici is president of UFCW Local 400, which represents 35,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in the West Virginia and the surrounding region.
"Our members have been going to work every day for more than 11 months now to continue serving their communities, making sure people are taken care of and that food is available to put on the table," Federici said. "Three hundred have tested positive for COVID and one passed away.
"It is unconscionable that our elected leaders, instead of figuring out ways to make sure our essential workers are protected and compensated for their sacrifice, are instead attempting to figure out ways to make sure businesses, including large, out-of-state corporations, are immune from lawsuits related to this pandemic. Essential workers were heroes before this pandemic and will be heroes after -- our legislative leadership should focus on protecting them, not big business."