SOUTH CHARLESTON – West Virginia retirees joined local and state officials today in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare in an event hosted by the West Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans (WVARA).

“This is a joyful day for the seniors of America,” WVARA President Virginia Moles said. “Thanks to Medicare, millions of older Americans are able to enjoy their retirement without medical expenses bankrupting them and their families.

“In this age of shrinking savings and small or nonexistent pensions, Medicare is more important than ever.”

Today is now Pay Cut Day for West Virginia’s construction workers, West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue said.

“At a time when the focus should be on building our state’s infrastructure and supporting our local workforce, the Senate President and House Speaker have chosen to play politics with the pay of West Virginia workers, resulting in confusion and disruption within the state’s construction industry,” President Perdue said.

The Republicans on the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Government and Finance voted in June to deny WorkForce West Virginia’s request for an extension in calculating a fair market minimum hourly wage for state projects above $500,000, as directed by legislation adopted this year. As a result of that action, taken over the objection of Democrat members, the existing Prevailing Wage expired as of July1.

“The Prevailing Wage protects local workers and local contractors,” Affiliated Construction Trades Director Steve White said. “Beginning today, workers on public projects will face unfair wages and unfair competition from out-of-state contractors. Shame on the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Government and Finance for denying WorkForce West Virginia the time needed to determine what the local market is paying and to ensure the best use of state taxpayer money.”

Both White and Perdue join Governor Earl Ray Tomblin in urging the legislative leadership to reconsider denying the extension.

“The Legislature directed WorkForce West Virginia to undertake a complex process that is vitally important to West Virginia’s construction industry, infrastructure needs and workers,” Perdue said. “The Republican legislative leadership owes it to West Virginia taxpayers to allow adequate time to complete that process.”

CHARLESTON -- To celebrate the completion of a new apartment building designed to provide the physically disabled with independent living accommodations, representatives of several groups that contributed to its design and construction held a ceremonial ribbon cutting today.

“This project provides some much-needed, centrally located living space for people who face physical challenges,” West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue noted.

Named in honor of longtime attorney Patrick Maroney -- who through his work as General Counsel to the WVAFL-CIO and as a state and community leader has dedicated decades of service on behalf of fair housing and employment -- the Thomas Patrick Maroney Unity Apartments contains 13 one-bedroom accessible apartments, which include kitchens and bathrooms designed to accommodate people with mobility challenges.

West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue said the decision by household products leader Procter & Gamble to invest $500 million in a West Virginia manufacturing facility is testament to the strong, viable workforce and economic opportunities the state provides.

“Companies like Procter & Gamble have every reason to want to locate in West Virginia, despite what some lawmakers and other interest groups have been saying about our state,” Perdue said.

He said the announcement once again brings into question the need for legislation to enact a so-called Right-to-Work law and other measures that would negatively affect workers.

“Some have said such bills would eliminate road blocks that are keeping companies from locating in West Virginia, but clearly those road blocks don’t exist,” Perdue said. “In the name of ‘economic development,’ they are talking about rolling back a prevailing wage law that ensures fairness, training of a highly skilled workforce, and quality construction, and of enacting a Right-to-Work law that would needlessly weaken the employer-employee relationship by adding government interference.

West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue said he is deeply disappointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s decision to sign legislation that puts West Virginia coal miners at risk.
 
“In his long career as a lawmaker, Governor Tomblin had always worked to adopt laws that help protect coal miners – until now. Senate Bill 357 is a disappointing step backward in mine safety, and I had hoped the Governor would veto the legislation,” Perdue said.
 
SB 357 abolishes the West Virginia Diesel Commission, which protects the health and safety of miners in underground mines that use diesel powered equipment. It also increases the distance a rail track can be from the working face area from 500 feet to 1,500 feet -- a distance of five football fields an injured miner would have be transported to reach rail transportation to the outside.
 
But the most troubling element of the bill strips language intended to protect miners from ventilation dangers related to smoke and fire in instances of moving equipment -- a provision became the focus of attention after the 1972 Blacksville No. 1 Mine Fire in Monongalia County that killed 9 West Virginia coal miners.
 
“It’s only been five years since the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that took 29 coal miners’ lives, yet this legislation removes safety provisions intended to protect West Virginia miners in the event of a fire,” Perdue said. “I am shocked and saddened by the Legislative leadership’s pursuit of a bill that places profits above safety, and I am very disappointed that Governor Tomblin apparently did not join the majority of Democrat legislators in seeing the danger the legislation poses to miners.”

CHARLESTON – Standing strong against politically motivated attacks on West Virginia working families, close to 7,000 made their way to Charleston today to celebrate “Mountaineer Workers Rising.”

“This has been a powerful display of unity that sends a clear message to the legislators who are at this very moment inside the State Capitol, making decisions that directly affect West Virginia families,” West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue said. “The people who have gathered here today represent a huge segment of our state’s population, and they want lawmakers to know that they are paying attention.”