Payraise Passed, COVID Hazard Pay Push Continues

SUCCESSFUL LEGISLATION PUSHED BY CWA LOCAL 2055:

SB 250 Budget Bill – Included in the overall bill is an annual increase in the salaries of state employees. This bill passed both houses and was signed into law by the Governor It will give all employees in the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation a 5% raise.

Hazard Pay – CWA LOCAL 2055 will continue to push for $5,000 in Hazard Pay for workers in the Division who served during the pandemic. West Virginia received $1.355 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and state leaders have until December 2023 to appropriate this money. We must ALL continue to encourage lawmakers to make sure employees of Corrections and Rehabilitation is recognized with Hazard Pay from the APRA funds!

SB 680 - Adding Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation employees to Survivor Benefits Act. The purpose of this bill was to provide survivor benefits for employees of corrections who died as result of performing their duties. This legislation would include giving benefits to survivors for those employees who died of COVID-19. The bill passed the State Senate but never came to a vote in the House. However, attorneys for the Governor’s Office stated that existing law enables the Division to authorize these benefits. CWA Local 2055 will be pursuing a formal announcement of these benefits to survivors of the four employees in Corrections who have lost their lives during the pandemic.

HB 4308 - Relating to access to juvenile records by certain employees of Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. This legislation provides access to juvenile records when needed in an employee grievance. The bill passed both houses and was signed into law by the Governor.

BILLS THAT DIED:

HB 4310 – would have changed the spousal coverage for health insurance through PEIA, and would have required employees to pay the full share of PEIA for their spouse’s coverage, if their spouse had health insurance coverage available through their employer and chooses PEIA coverage instead.  This is a bad bill in that if coverage is offered for the spouse through their employer, the deductibles could be much higher and the overall coverage offered substantially lower than what is offered through PEIA.  Late Saturday evening, there was an attempt to amend this bill into another good bill that would lower the cost of insulin for those persons needing it.  The amendment was determined to not be germane to the bill.

 BILLS REJECTED ON A FLOOR VOTE:

Committee Substitute for SB 230 – This bill would have changed the grievance procedure to make the process more cumbersome for employees and would have permitted an Administrative Law Judge to order the losing party to pay a penalty of up to $1,000 if they determine the grievance to be frivolous. It also would prohibit a grievance if the event is related to a state of emergency and excluded the Department of Personnel from being named in a grievance. CWA LOCAL 2055 worked hard to defeat this legislation! The bill passed the Senate, but it was defeated by a 61 to 39 vote in the House.  This was a huge (and rare) floor vote win for public employees!

In the House, Speaker Hanshaw put together the Select Committee on Jails and Prisons with David Kelly as Chair and other Committee Members appointed that are supportive of workers in the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  Members of the Committee had bills drafted that were passed out of the Committee, including HB 4313 (to provide a pay increase to state correctional workers in West Virginia) and HB 4371/SB 680 (adding Correctional Employees to the Survivor Benefits Act).  While the specific pay bill didn’t pass this session, we are hopeful that Speaker Hanshaw will make the Select Committee on Jails and Prisons a permanent committee that will continue to discuss and to put forth bills that are of specific importance to Correctional Workers.