Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dispatch from West Virginia: Wednesday, Feb. 25 (UPDATE)

Operating engineer
Dave Blett signs up to testify.
Our Teamster on the Ground reports on today's developments in the fight against right to work in West Virginia:
It's 6:30 a.m. and workers have gathered at IUOE Local 132 to shuttle to the Statehouse to voice their opposition to SB 361, the bill to scale back the prevailing wage. It's set to be discussed in a committee hearing this morning. I was invited by IUOE member and former Delegate David Walker, who lost his seat in the midterm election. He's been on the front lines every day this session and helped coordinate this morning's commute. 
In addition to the operating engineers, iron workers came out this morning to hitch a ride. They told me before hopping on the shuttle that they "wouldn't dare miss this" and that "this is what solidarity is all about."
Right-to-work was originally on the agenda for today, but it was taken off at the last minute yesterday evening. More harmful bills are being introduced in these final days of the session, but the troops have been assembled and are ready to fight back. 
At 9:07 a.m., our Teamster on the Ground arrived at the West Virginia Statehouse:
Just arrived to a packed house. Workers out the door, lining the halls and making their presence known.   
Workers waiting to testify on a prevailing wage bill. 
The committee room was so packed an overflow crowd had to listen in another room. 
Outside of the East Wing Committee Room.
UPDATE: At 5 p.m., our Teamster on the Ground filed this report:
Sadly, the prevailing wage bill we have fought so hard to defeat has passed out of the House Government Organization Committee by a vote of 17-8. The House of Delegates will now vote on the anti-worker measure to be enacted, but we are continuing to fight. Workers are not giving up their efforts to stop the bill from moving forward.  
Although we were unable to stop prevailing wage from clearing committee, the standing-room-only meeting this morning should remind all House delegates that workers will not back down. The bill will not only cut wages, it will also cost jobs. Workers say they will not be deterred.

“You know it! I know it! Everybody in this House knows that this is going to cut wages,” Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said as he looked to the union laborers who had packed the meeting room. “I've heard from as many companies as I have had workers saying this is going to put them out of business.” 
I left the Statehouse to attend a conference call at the West Virginia AFL-CIO office. President Kenny Perdue talked at length about right-to-work, which we are still hopeful will die in committee. Republicans did give us a momentary scare yesterday, Perdue said on the call. They sought to punish Democrats killing a charter school bill in committee on Monday by adding right-to-work to today's agenda late yesterday afternoon.
AFL-CIO Senior Field Staff Rod Muchnok, with President Kenny Perdue and
Political Director Sherry Breeden of the West Virginia AFL-CIO.
Although the threat turned out to be a bluff, it was significant enough to remind everyone just how real the risk is in West Virginia. All it takes is a well-funded, coordinated push by the anti-union opposition to put us on the defensive again. 
So we are remaining vigilant, producing a radio spot just in case the opposition decides to launch an ad blitz. We are also moving forward on a Statehouse rally March 7th -- aiming for a minimum crowd of 5,000-8,500. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall will be speaking, and the famous Teamster tractor-trailer will make an appearance. We encourage all supporters in the area to attend.