OKLAHOMA CITY – While teachers are planning a walkout, state employees are hoping to send their own message to lawmakers.
Earlier this month, 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.
On Wednesday, the OPEA sent a notice to all state workers that belong to the association, asking that they request a day off for April 2.
“Today, we ask all state employees to submit an annual leave request for April 2nd. Our goal is to shut down, or have reduced services at as many work sites as possible on that day. We know that some work locations like correctional centers, 24-hour care facilities and other mission-critical sites must have sufficient staff on site to serve their clients or protect the public. However, we believe those work sites also can have representation and show their support. For example, if you can’t leave work on that day, call your representatives during lunch. Or, talk with your coworkers about how you can support the effort on another day.
If your request is denied, ask your supervisor for a reason in writing. Because some functions must be staffed by state agencies, some employees’ leave will be denied for mission-critical reasons. However, annual leave may not be denied because of what the employee plans to do on that day. If you are denied leave for our action and are not given a sufficient reason, call OPEA at (405) 524-6764 or email us at email@example.com,” a letter to state employees read.
Organizers say they are also planning events in the hometowns of key lawmakers after April 2, and encourage state employees to protest at the Capitol as long as it takes to make a change.
“State employees don’t want to take these steps but believe there is no other choice. We would rather continue serving but can’t if we can’t provide for our families. We can’t be our best if we are working two-or-three jobs. We can’t keep up with our work, if we are short staffed. We hope you are willing to fight alongside us to make a change..If we don’t fight, lawmakers will continue to ignore you and your agencies’ needs. Share this with your coworkers and urge them and their families to participate,” the OPEA said.
The last across-the-board state employee pay raise authorized by Oklahoma lawmakers was in 2008.