Union activists flood Statehouse

http://cjonline.com/print/96224

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Union activists flood Statehouse
By Tim Carpenter Created Mar 16 2011 - 6:18pm

State safety inspector Paul Kosmala took off work Wednesday in Topeka to speak personally with legislators about the value of collective bargaining. Hospital worker Carl Parker, of Larned, pressed the flesh while urging House and Senate members to avoid imposing reductions in salaries and benefits. Wichita case manager Larry Slapar was there to remind Kansas politicians that state workers are voters, too. Welcome to lobby day with the Kansas Organization of State Employees, a group of 11,000 psychologists, janitors, truck drivers, correctional officers, social workers, investigators, mental health technicians and administrative assistants. More than 400 worked the halls and offices of the Statehouse. "We're not the enemy," said Debbie Slapar, who joined Larry for KOSE's day of action. Both have worked at the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services for 19 years. "We're trying to remind them state employees are also taxpayers," Larry Slapar said. Members of KOSE and six other labor organizations made the rounds. They handed legislators a one-page summary of concerns as each entered the House chamber. The flier warned, "Don't gamble with our future!" The central message was state workers understand the Kansas government's budget is on life support, but persistent reduction of employee salaries and benefits won't solve the problem. "We just want to have our voice heard," said Jane Carter, executive director of KOSE. Legislators have unnerved state employees by discussing reform of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. The system has an unfunded liability in excess of $7 billion, and reduction of employee benefits and expansion of employee contributions are on the table. Kosmala, an inspector with the Kansas Department of Labor, said the rising cost of health insurance, lack of pay raises and potential restructuring of the pension system was causing heartburn. It is enough to turn a person into a devout union organizer, he said. "I'm here to ensure we don't lose our collective-bargaining rights," he said. Parker, an employee of Larned State Hospital, said many KOSE members were unhappy with a House bill that would prevent public union members from having contributions to labor political action committees be deducted directly from paychecks. The House isn't interested in the same limitation on private corporations with employee-sponsored PACs. "They want to cut our pay," he said. "Make us pay more for retirement. Now, we can't deduct money out of our paychecks for political activity?" Tim Carpenter can be reached at (785) 296-3006 or timothy.carpenter@cjonline.com [1].

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3/17/2011 11:20 AM

Union activists flood Statehouse

http://cjonline.com/print/96224

Source URL: http://cjonline.com/legislature/2011-03-16/union-activists-flood-statehouse Links: [1] mailto:timothy.carpenter@cjonline.com

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3/17/2011 11:20 AM

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