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DHHS workers protest hefty salaries for insiders

Posted November 14, 2013

Workers with the state Department of Health and Human Services rallied on Nov. 14, 2013, to speak out against large raises for agency managers, arguing that their wages have essentially been frozen for years.

— Workers with the state Department of Health and Human Services rallied Thursday to speak out against large raises for agency managers, arguing that their wages have essentially been frozen for years.

About 30 mental health workers and their allies protested what they say are unsafe and unfair working conditions in state mental health facilities. The protest was organized by Local 150 of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, the state public-service workers union.

Protesters said state mental health facilities are dangerously understaffed after years of budget cuts. Also, workers haven't had a significant raise since 2008, and four out of five are stuck at the bottom of their pay scale, meaning many have to work two jobs to make ends meet.

Larsene Taylor, a health care technician at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, said she's angry that DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos has handed out big raises and contracts to friends and political appointees while workers have gotten nothing.

"I'm a 21-year, six-month state employee of North Carolina. You're going to bring in somebody with two years – no experience – and get them up to $82,000. ... It's not fair to the working people."

Wos has been publicly criticized in recent months after two former campaign aides to Gov. Pat McCrory were given high-paid jobs at DHHS. She also hired an executive at her husband's company as a consultant and provided her chief of staff a $37,000 buyout even though he left after only one month on the job.

High turnover and low wages also affect the patients who depend on state workers for their care, Taylor said.

"When you have underpaid, overworked, exhausted, poorly trained employees of facilities, that’s going to impact the quality of care that patients get," said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina.

The protesters delivered a letter to Wos' office, requesting a meeting with her to discuss their concerns. They sent her a similar letter last month and have also called several times, Taylor said.

“These are the people who do the work with the patients. We do not pay them a living wage. We do not provide the training that they need in order to handle very difficult situations," said state Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, who took part in the rally.

“I speak not only on behalf of the workers, but on behalf of the patients they take care of," Insko said. "The workers need adequate training, they need enough staff there that they’re not put into dangerous situations, and they need a living wage.”

Sen. Don Davis, D-Wayne, also participated in the rally.

31 Comments

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  • itsmetheboss6 Nov 21, 8:50 a.m.

    I see in my crystal ball, without raises for state employees all these years I see a BIG work slowdown or computer malfunctions in state government. When are the leaders ever going to learn?

  • itsmetheboss6 Nov 20, 3:06 p.m.

    Wildpig,

    We can't just walk off the job, we need to eat. They have not paid us in seven years so we are chained to our jobs! The state employees have had it. All the problems you hear about well, I guess you get what you pay for!

  • SARCASTICLES Nov 19, 5:08 p.m.

    It looks like McCrory is finally busted for lying about Medicaid in order to justify rejecting expansion in NC. It looks like prison time for his DHHS Czar Vos, too.

    They LIED in order to deny 500,000 North Carolinians Medicaid....for POLITICAL reasons.

    Enjoy your first AND last term, Pat.

  • SARCASTICLES Nov 18, 1:42 p.m.

    YOU KNOW:

    You know you're a hypocrite when you attack and arrest the natives for protesting your agenda and calling them "outside agitators".....while passing imported ALEC/Americans With Prosperity legislation, and ignoring the fact that you, as Governor, are from Ohio, Tillis is from Florida, and Berger and Rucho are from New York.

    How 'bout them "outside agitators", NCGOP?

  • snshine62d Nov 18, 12:49 p.m.

    Funny you people don't see the writing on the wall. The people in NC office are for corporations and rich people. Try looking at the new bills passed for your Income taxes, Corp taxes. How about all of the deductions that we will no longer be able to use. Wake up people.

  • wildpig777 Nov 18, 10:13 a.m.

    sort order: oldest first | newest first

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    "I do wish teachers/state employees would walk off the job for a week and watch this state become paralyzed and come to a standstill--maybe then state employees/teachers would get the attention of politicans and the rest of the citizens."

    It will not become paralyzed. In fact, I see that as an opportunity to growth the private sector seats and charter school seats. By all means, make the walk off permanent. We will finally get a chance to make some needed changes.

    whatelseisnew

    you fool yourself--completely-- if you think this state would not come to a standstill if the public servants walked off for a couple of days... they certainly have every reason to walk off the jobs across the state given the hostile and condescending attitude from Raleigh over the last 45 yrs....

  • whatelseisnew Nov 18, 9:25 a.m.

    "I do wish teachers/state employees would walk off the job for a week and watch this state become paralyzed and come to a standstill--maybe then state employees/teachers would get the attention of politicans and the rest of the citizens."

    It will not become paralyzed. In fact, I see that as an opportunity to growth the private sector seats and charter school seats. By all means, make the walk off permanent. We will finally get a chance to make some needed changes.

  • whatelseisnew Nov 18, 9:23 a.m.

    "said it before i'll say it again-- joe TAXPAPER IN NC HAS HAD A BARGAIN with the state employee/ teacher. you people in private industry would not tolerate a 1% raise in 6 yrs--you'd be long gone.. only in nc where it is ILLEGAL TO STRIKE is the govment able to get away with this nonsense."

    Actually the private sector laid of millions upon millions of workers. So how about a pay raise of -100 percent? So far as the DHHS is concerned, my solution to that is simple. Get rid of it. Now if people do not like their pay and benefits, then they can move on just as people in the private sector move on.

    I can appreciate them wanting increases, everyone does. Maybe we could find ways to reduce spending on education instead of continuing to feed the same obsolete beast that produces lousy results and consumes more and more private sector money. Lets use another private sector method. Demand higher productivity so the number of people can be reduced thus again allowing higher pay.

  • Sally1023 Nov 18, 9:09 a.m.

    You right sided folks like to say dems did it too!!! Well, to be sure, Easly and Perdue were no Sandford or Hodges, but they did not give NC fat cats and corporations a tax cut, they did not cut education money per student, they did not deregulate improving environmental laws and they did a much better job of taking care of the poor and unemployed.

  • Sally1023 Nov 18, 9:02 a.m.

    to: Wild pig777
    You nailed it.

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