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.”
Carrying signs with messages of “Safety and Security for all West Virginia Workers,” “West Virginians for Worker Fairness,” “Stop the War on Coal Miners,” and “Right to Work is Wrong,” attendees rallied against efforts to pass legislation to loosen coal mine safety protections, bring down wages and diminish public education.
National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts and Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall were among the large delegation of labor international presidents and officers who spoke at the noon event along the river side of the Capitol. (Attached are quotes from featured speakers.)
They talked about damaging legislation that has passed or is being considered that would benefit the wealthy at the expense of working families.
- A bill has been passed that weakens coal mining safety regulations, including stripping language that became the focus of attention after the 1972 Blacksville No. 1 Mine Fire in Monongalia County that killed 9 West Virginia coal miners.
- Although the state Prevailing Wage encourages the development of a high-skilled, high-wage economy that provides decent health and pension benefits and economic security to workers, there is an attempt to scale it back or even repeal it. More than 100 contractors, both union and nonunion, have sent letters telling lawmakers that abolishing Prevailing Wage would put companies out of business.
- If a charter school system is enacted, taxpayer funds would be taken from the already over-burdened and underfunded public school system, which would still be educating the majority of West Virginia’s children, to fund these schools. In fact, taxpayers would likely be paying taxes to support charter schools in other communities that their children are not selected or able to attend.
Research shows most charter schools perform on par, or even slightly worse, than comparable traditional schools, while they are being criticized for financial mismanagement, lack of accountability and the failure to demonstrate academic improvement.
- What has been wrongfully called “Right to Work” is nothing more than government intrusion into negotiations between private employers and employees.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is 54.4 percent higher in states with Right-to-Work laws, while the average salary is $5,971 lower in Right to Work states than in free bargaining states. The Bureau’s data also shows that 7 of the top 10 states with the highest unemployment rates have Right-to-Work laws in place.
While President Perdue said this legislative agenda has been deeply troubling, it has moved West Virginians to take notice and make their voices heard.
“I wish we weren’t having these discussions, but they have certainly energized West Virginia workers, as evidenced by today’s turnout,” he said. “It’s truly gratifying to see so many people standing together in solidarity.”
Check out pictures of the event on Twitter: #wvwkrs @WestVirginiaAFL and facebook.com/westvirginiaaflcio