State workers join Funeral March to General Assembly, demanding raises, safe staffing, housing, healthcare, not corporate tax breaks! #PeoplesBudgetNC

Aug 17, 2021

RALEIGH – State workers on the front lines through the pandemic are frustrated at the current budget proposals coming from both chambers of the NC General Assembly. Over 100 people including North Carolina Public Service Workers Union – UE Local 150 members marched with the statewide NC United for Survival and Beyond coalition of community, faith, local elected officials and labor organizations to demand a “People’s Budget” during a funeral procession and speak-out rally on Thursday, August 12. The action uplifted the urgency of passing a budget that addresses the needs of the people.

Workers marched demanding real raises for state employees, safe staffing in DHHS facilities, $700 million in funding for the UNC System (as part of the Another UNC is Possible campaign), to make corporations pay their fair share of taxes and funding for healthcare, housing and public education!

Read more about People’s Budget here:

The House and Senate’s proposed budget continues to under invest in policies that benefit the people. It fails to utilize unreserved funds to invest in workers rights or housing, it fails to expand Medicaid, and it includes tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy and corporations.

UE150 member Jessica Gazso, a pharmacy technician at Central Regional Hospital, and Chief Steward at Butner-Area chapter, spoke to the crowd stating, “currently we are very understaffed and losing lots of experienced staff. Techs and nurses are leaving for better paying jobs.” Watch full video of Jessica’s speech on UE150 YouTube channel here:

“The pandemic has led to an increase in mental illness,” stated Sekia Royall, President of UE150, state employee in the Department of Health and Human Services who works at O’Berry Center. Royall continued, “We, state DHHS workers, care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, yet the state budget priorities to do not recognize this. We are chronically underpaid. We were understaffed before the pandemic. Now we are losing even more staff, which makes the safety issues worse. Some units have 50-60% vacant positions. We deserve safe staffing and a real raise!”

This is a time when our state needs to confront and tackle a host of enormous and unprecedented challenges. Thanks to the over $5 Billion in American Rescue Plan dollars from the federal government, $6.5 Billion in unexpected tax revenue and several billion in a reserve fund, the state has unusually plentiful resources at its disposal. Yet both House and Senate budgets would leave core services and structures disastrously underfunded. While proposing a pathetic 1.5% raise for state employees, the state Senate budget also proposes completely eliminating corporate taxes, and given them $13.9 Billion in tax breaks over the next 5 years. The House budget, while keeping at the same low overall budget number, did propose a 2.5% raise and $250 bonus for state employees.

“State workers in mental health facilities are facing a major understaffing crisis, stated Peggy Briggins-Price, Chair of the DHHS Council of UE150 and Developmental Tech 2 at Caswell Developmental Center. She continued, “We need a state budget that keeps our patients and workers safe. The individuals that we serve deserve the best care possible. But in order to do that they need the best staffing possible. You would want that for your family member. We need raises that respect our years of service. We have worked through the entire pandemic, leaving our families every day we come to work for the state and care for these individuals.”

While talking to aids of Representative Larry Yarborough (Granville County), UE150 member David Bartholemew reported that we had successfully lobbied to have language added to study the root causes of understaffing in DHHS facilities, but nothing has yet been confirmed.

Other union members talked with other wavering Democrats, who had previously voted to uphold the Republican’s budget in the Senate, such as Senator Kirk DeViere (Cumberland County). Others went directly to the House Chamber where the full session was actively debating the budget. Workers held signs outside the balcony and chanted for funding for “housing, healthcare, not corporate welfare.” Speaker of House Tim Moore had to temporarily stop the session because chanting was so loud. Workers felt proud that their message was heard loud and clear!

UE Eastern Region President George Waksmunski also joined the action.

News Coverage from August 12 action:

News and Observer:

WRAL: Raleigh protesters carry coffins to protest state budget plan, call attention to healthcare needs


People’s Budget 2021 Endorsements:

Action Institute NC, Always Ready 2 Fight Reentry Resources, Black Voters Matter Fund, BREATHE Harnett,
Capital Area Food Network, Carolina Federation, Carolina Jews for Justice, Center for Participatory Change, Church of Reconciliation PC (USA), Church World Service NC, Communication Workers of America, Community, Empowerment Fund, Democracy NC, Democratic Women of Macon County, Down Home North Carolina, Durham People’s Alliance, El Pueblo, Faith 4 Justice Asheville, Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce, Health Care for All NC, Interfaith Initiative for Social Justice, Just Economics, Little Listeners of the Carolinas, Local Progress, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, National Organization for Women (NOW) – Fayetteville Chapter, NC Poor People’s Campaign, NC Raise Up/the Fight for $15 and a Union, North Carolina Council of Churches, North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Medicare 4 All, North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, UE Local 150, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Poor People’s Campaign Triad (NC) Circle, Progress NC, Progressive Democrats of Orange County, Racial Justice Coalition, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Save Our Sons, Siembra NC, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Student Action with Farmworkers, Sunrise Movement North Carolina, Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of North Carolina, Wake County Housing Justice Coalition, Wake County Progressive Democrats, Young Americans Protest, YWCA of Asheville and WNC