State workers rally for raises in Frankfort

Some say they can barely afford food and gas

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

Nearly 200 state employees participated in a rally at the Capitol Wednesday, saying their salaries have not kept pace with the rising costs of health insurance, food and other necessities.

The head of the Kentucky Association of State Employees choked up as he read aloud a letter penned by a female social worker who has worked in state government nine years. 

David Smith, executive director of KASE, said he changed the woman’s name to Carrie to protect her from possible retaliation.

The woman wrote that she bought her home seven years ago and refinanced her mortgage last year, but foreclosure is imminent because she cannot afford the monthly payments. Six years ago her salary was $29,000 and her paycheck $912. Now she takes home $860 per paycheck, a loss of more than $1,200 annually.

The woman said she could barely afford food and gas.

“This should be illegal,” Smith said.

Gov. Steve Beshear’s budget proposal includes the first raises for state workers since fiscal year 2010. During the first year of the biennium, those earning less than $27,000 would get a 5 percent bump in pay, 3 percent for those making between $27,001 and $36,000, 2 percent for salaries between $36,001 and $50,000, and 1 percent for those making more than $50,001. An across-the-board 1 percent raise would be issued in fiscal year 2016.

Brent Sweger, president of the Kentucky Transportation Employees Association, said his pay has diminished about $12,000 since he started with the Transportation Cabinet. State agencies have had difficulty retaining employees because they can earn more working in the private sector or for county and municipal governments.

Some who remain in state government need second jobs to make ends meet, and others fare worse, he said.

“We have other employees who have to get Section 8 housing or are on food stamps just to scrape by,” Sweger said. “This is pathetic. It’s unconscionable, and to have state employees in this situation, this has got to stop.”

Sen. Julian Carroll said attrition, too, has taken its toll on the ranks of state workers. He said he often hears of employees taking on the responsibilities of one or two departed co-workers; one has taken on the work of five former colleagues.

Carroll, D-Frankfort, urged the crowd, many in bright yellow Transportation Cabinet jackets, to contact their representatives and senators as the budget process begins.

“Your fight has just started,” Carroll said, “and for the first time you have people talking about your problems. For the first time they’re beginning to understand the plight of state employees.”

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  • State employees, do you know that you are NOT powerless in this situation?  You could band together and join a union that has been around for ever, the Kentucky Association of State Employees.  There have never been enough employees to join KASE to empower it to collectively bargain for better pay and working conditions or really even make a difference in these kinds of issues.  Why not?  Something about being a good state worker.

    Folks around here have been conditioned to be sheep from the many years of state government employment, because government always rewards those who keeps their heads down, trying to blend in and most of all, don't make waves. So, when someone assertive comes along and dares to stand up and shout out about the inconsistencies and wrong doing, these sheeple are frightened because that isn't the way sheep are supposed to act. These sheep act like typical herd prey species do, which is classic antipredator adaption.

    It does not have to be that way...put your big boy and big girl pants on and organize!  There is power in them thar' numbers.  You don't have to be relegated to begging in the rotunda!

  • I begain working for the State back when employees were still getting 5% raises. At the time I had a job so really didn,t need to take the job. I did though because they agreed to provide that pay raise each year, which meant to me from 2 to 3 % more each year than the job I was leaving. My hope was to improve life for my family and provide an opportunity for advancement for myself. Well that was a big let-down! The only 5% I ever got was after my first year. With the ever increasing payroll deductions, my take home pay has been declining ever since.

    I have been loosing now for twelve years, have worked two jobs just to keep up and have lost just about everything. I work full time but am on a fixed income. Many paychecks go by that I need to decide can I buy enough food, will I have enough gas, do I need to lower the thermostat more, can I go to the doctor or am I going to make it to my next paycheck?  Sure hope I get the mortgage paid before I get another late charge.

  • Used to be working for the state didn't pay great, but it was slow, steady and you could depend on getting annual 5% raises EVERY YEAR.  As a state gov retiree, I feel sorry for current state employees having to put up with this BS from elected officials.  The state merit system with it's pay scale should be sacrosanct.  And KY State Retirement system should be fully funded, but it's not.  Politicians are balancing the budget on the backs of state employees and retirees.  REVOLT!

  • The job class for social workers requires a minimum of a college degree, which makes it unconscionable that state employees cannot make a modest mortgage payment.