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WVARA 1WVARA 1RIPLEY – The West Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans today concluded its 13th annual convention, where the more than 100 attendees discussed how to educate, energize and mobilize seniors to make a difference through activism.

The group -- part of a unique national organization that was launched in 2001 by a coalition of AFL-CIO affiliated unions and community-based organizations dedicated to economic and social justice – met at Cedar Lakes Conference Center and re-elected President Virginia Moles, a Kanawha County resident who has served in that capacity since 2013, and elected Terry Cunningham of Cabell County to serve as Treasurer.

“I am elated with how engaged and motivated our members are, and am truly honored to be once again elected to lead this group,” Moles said.  “Considering the detrimental changes to our health care and tax systems that Congress is considering, and the state legislation adopted over the past three years that threaten the well-being of West Virginians, our members know that this is a critical time, and we must make sure that retirees and older West Virginians have a voice.”

The year’s convention – the theme being “Retirees Under Attack … It’s Time to Fight Back!” – included featured speaker Karen Gorrell, spokeswoman for the group of Century Aluminum retirees who spent seven years fighting to regain lifetime health benefits that the company had promised, but then canceled. 

The retirees, stripped of their health benefits in 2010, finally received their first installment of their $23 million settlement this fall.

“Everybody was devastated – nobody thought we would win,” she said. “It was the fight of our lives.”

The battle took Gorrell and the group of retirees, who eventually became known as “the modern-day Mother Jones and her Silver-Haired Brigade,” to the halls of the West Virginia Capitol, Washington D.C., and across the country. They and their supporters even took turns camping on Century’s Ravenswood site for 78 days, receiving donations of money and food in support.

“Karen and the other Century retirees provide a shining example of how retirees and senior West Virginians can, and should, stand up for themselves and the rights of their peers,” Moles said. “We are extremely proud of them.”

Kanawha County resident Spud Terry serves as the Executive Vice President and Jackson County resident Betty Totten is Secretary. The following are the members of the West Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans Executive Board:

1st Congressional District: Bill Hartwell, Tyler County; Sharon Hartwell, Tyler County; Rosie Saunders, Marion County; Sue Kelley, Marion County.

2nd Congressional District: Larry LaCorte Sr., Jackson County; Robert Hardesty, Kanawha County; Les Shockey, Jackson County; Kay Moffatt, Kanawha County.

3rd Congressional District: Elsen Garrett, Cabell County; Rick Lewis, Cabell County; Mercedes Sayre, Jackson County; Floyd Sayre, Jackson County.

* Attached are: WVARA 1 – WVARA President Virginia Moles speaks before a packed convention. WVARA 2 – Karen Gorrell talks about the seven-year fight to win back health benefits for Century Aluminum retirees.

 

CHARLESTON – More than 200 union members representing over 100 local union affiliates gathered in Charleston this week for the West Virginia AFL-CIO’s 29th Constitutional Convention to adopt policy and elect officers, selecting Josh Sword to a full four-year term as President of the organization.

“It is absolutely the highest professional honor of my life to be elected to serve in this capacity and to represent the wonderful people of the West Virginia AFL-CIO,” Sword said. “I look forward to leading the charge for the betterment of all West Virginia working families.”

WHERE’S THE TAXES?

Painters District Council 53 is holding a protest against Seminole Equipment and the WV Department of Highways on Thursday September 28, near 3222 Kanawha Turnpike, South Charleston (intersection of Hwy 60 & CR-12). The protest will be from 11:30 to 1:00pm.

Seminole Equipment from Tarpon Springs, Florida was recently awarded a $1.25 million bridge painting project in South Charleston.  

Painters District Council 53 was able to obtain copies of project payroll records and believe they show no state income taxes were withheld.

“Upon further review we believe Seminole Equipment has received 97 payments from the State of West Virginia since 2006. Those payments total almost $10.75 million,” said Painters District Council 53 Secretary-Treasurer Dan Poling. “We were able to obtain many of these payroll records and believe no state income taxes were withheld on any project during the past 11 years. We estimate the loss to WV taxpayers exceeds $250,000.”

Seminole has recently been awarded an $8.5 million project in Raleigh County and is the apparent low bidder for a project in Wetzel County in excess of $6 million.

“To make matters worse Seminole imports labor from out of the area,”  Poling said. “DOH has dropped the ball! We have alerted them to the problem but have heard little back. We want the State of West Virginia to make Seminole Equipment pay their taxes. It’s not fair to the West Virginia residents and businesses that do pay taxes.”

Painters District Council 53 Charleston, WV

The following is a statement from West Virginia AFL-CIO President Josh Sword on the state Supreme Court’s decision regarding the preliminary injunction on Senate Bill 1, so-called “Right to Work.”

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling pertains solely to the preliminary injunction issued by Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey that postponed enactment of the Right to Work law while she considers her final ruling.

In a hearing today before the West Virginia Supreme Court, attorneys representing the West Virginia AFL-CIO, the West Virginia State Building Trades and several others argued that the justices should allow Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey the time she needs to rule on the unions’ lawsuit challenging the state’s so-called “Right to Work” law. 

At issue before the state Supreme Court today was state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s request to overturn Judge Bailey’s preliminary injunction blocking enactment of the “Right to Work” law. 

Citing the potential harm and uncertainty created by the 2016 law, Judge Bailey issued the temporary injunction while she considers her final ruling.