OKLAHOMA CITY - With just weeks before the election and less than three months before the start of the legislative session, state workers are asking lawmakers not to forget about them.
Tuesday afternoon, members of the Oklahoma Public Employee’s Association met at the state capitol. Their goal: to fight for more state funding and a pay raise for 2019.
State employees and retirees spoke about the challenges of low staffing levels and low pay.
“We're asking for a $5,000 across the board pay raise,” said Sterling Zearley, OPEA executive director.
One person who spoke was OPEA President Elect Michael Rogers. Rogers is also a unit manager at James Crabtree Correctional Facility.
“It's one of those things, we expect it because we knew that's what it was but those numbers weren't that way when I started,” he said.
Rogers is asking lawmakers to start correctional officers at $16 per hour. Right now, they make just a little over $13.74 per hour.
“I'm walking right in amongst 800 inmates every single day,” he said.
With the start of the 2019 legislative session around the corner, Rogers said they’re asking for a $5,000 across the board pay increase for all state workers, an 8 percent COLA for pension system retirees and fixing staffing levels.
Rogers said staffing levels have continued to decrease since he was hired on back in 1990.
“Basically, a total of three to 400 inmates and, right now, I have just four staff and myself to man those three units,” he said.
Last year, lawmakers passed a $2,000 pay raise for all state employees earning less than $40,000 and $1,500 for those earning less than $50,000.
However, OPEA members said it wasn’t enough when you calculate daily expenses.
“In our opinion, a first step to nowhere; while it did help some employees, we wound up getting about a $50 million raise and it was a tier system,” Zearley said. “We have over 8,000 employees making less than $15 an hour; we find that's ridiculous.”
For a full list of the OPEA 2019 Legislative Agenda, click here.