The United Steelworkers (USW) union today urged officials of the U.S. Virgin Islands to quickly hammer out a plan for paying back wages to government workers subjected to illegal pay cuts during a fiscal crisis that took place a decade ago.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and the Legislature have promised to pay the public servants, including about 2,000 USW members, but they have advanced plans with different timetables.
“It’s essential that Gov. Bryan and legislative leaders come to agreement on a payment process as quickly as possible,” stressed USW District 9 Director Daniel Flippo, who leads thousands of Steelworkers in the Virgin Islands and seven Southern states.
“The dedicated workers who keep the government of the Virgin Islands running day in and day out already have waited 10 long years to receive wages that never should have been taken from them in the first place,” Flippo said. “That’s money that they need to pay mortgages, educate their children and meet other expenses. Further delay compounds the injury to their families.”
The government arbitrarily slashed workers’ pay by 8% from 2011 to 2013, violating collective bargaining agreements with union members.
The USW sued and, in 2016, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the wage cuts illegal. The ruling was a victory for government workers across the nation because it signaled that state and local governments could not violate contracts just to save money on workers’ backs.
“The USW urges Gov. Bryan and the Legislature to begin righting the wrong done to thousands of workers,” Flippo said. “There’s no time to waste. Justice for these union members requires speedy adoption of a plan for providing back pay so they can build more secure futures.”
The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.