Some 15 members of UE Local 160 members went to their state capitol on January 24 to lobby Virginia legislators and management of the Department of Health and Human Resources . While in Richmond they met with several members of the House of Delegates or their staffs, and had particularly encouraging meetings with Del. Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg) and with Del. Russell Potts (R-Winchester.) In meetings with legislators, union representatives discussed the need for salary increases especially for the lowest-paid workers, and problems caused by mandatory overtime.
The Local 160 delegation also met briefly with Marilyn Tavenner, Secretary of Health and Human Resources and arranged a longer follow-up meeting witb Tavenner and with James Reinhard, Commissioner of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services – the state department in which most Local 160 members work. In that one-hour meeting on February 7, Secretary Tavenner told the union that her department plans to end mandatory overtime. The local discussed its need for access to workers on the job, which had been promised a year ago but never implemented. The Secretary asked the union for a written, detailed proposal on union workplace access, which the local submitted a few days later.
“We are starting to get known in Richmond,” said Local 160 President Allen Layman in assessing the impact of the two days in the state capitol. “We’re waiting to see what the state’s concrete responses will be on the issues of mandatory overtime and union access. We are also optimistic that Del. Dance, who is herself a nurse who worked for years in mental health, is going to be a stcong advocate for our members.”
UE Eastern Region President Andrew Dinkelaker, who also participated in the Jan. 24 Lobby Day, felt that the lobbying activity was “an important step for Local 160. They established their presence in the state capitol, and let both legislators and their own department managers know that we have issues that need to be addressed.”