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Organization: State employees considering their own walkout

OKLAHOMA CITY - While teachers from across the state are discussing plans to walk out of the classroom if lawmakers don't act on a pay raise, now state employees are considering their own options.

The Oklahoma Education Association is seeking a $10,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers over three years, a $5,000 pay raise for support professionals over three years, a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees and the restoration of funding for education and core government services.

OEA announced that it is tentatively planning a teacher walkout for April 2 if legislators don’t increase teacher and staff pay.

“Our goals remain the same- to force the legislature to pass a plan that provides teachers and support professionals a significant pay raise, and restores critical funding to our classrooms,” said OEA President Alicia Priest in a video posted to the union’s Facebook page. “We will not allow lawmakers, once again, to shortchange our students, our teachers and our support professionals.”

Now, state employees are hoping to send their own message to lawmakers.

On Friday, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association announced that state employees across Oklahoma "are exploring work stoppage options" following years of low state employee pay and agency budget cuts.

“State employees are tired of being ignored and are angry because state leaders have failed to do their job. They’ve failed again to provide a pay raise for state employees and they’ve failed to sufficiently fund core services.” said Sterling Zearley, OPEA executive director. “A state employee’s take-home pay shrinks every year and they are fed up with lawmakers who won’t listen. That’s why we’re looking at work stoppages. Just like teachers, state employees are fed up and ready for action.”

"They`re realizing that the talk has gotten them nowhere over the years and maybe it`s time to increase the action that they do," said Tom Dunning with OPEA.

OPEA says it had endorsed legislation authorizing a $71 million for a state employee pay raise this year. However, that legislation failed to get a committee hearing and is not being considered.

“If state employees decide it is time to act, we will back them 100 percent in what they want to do. Legislators need to pass a significant state employee pay raise plan and restore state agency cuts or we need to elect legislators who will,” Zearley said.

The last across-the-board state employee pay raise authorized by Oklahoma lawmakers was in 2008.

Talk of a walkout statewide has caught the attention of lawmakers.

"A teacher walkout is one thing, but a state employee walkout is another thing entirely because you`re talking about sectors like corrections and the DMV," said Rep. Forrest Bennett, (D), Oklahoma City.