State Employees Demand Higher Wages from Delaware Leaders - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

State Employees Demand Higher Wages from Delaware Leaders

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DOVER, Del. -- A number of state workers on Tuesday rallied for better wages, saying many state employees are struggling to get by under their current levels of pay.

Leaders and members of AFSCME Delaware Public Employees, Council 81 said state employees are well overdue for a raise after taking a pay cut of more than 2 percent following the financial crisis in 2008.

Mike Begatto, the union's leader, said a raise of 1 percent or $750 given to many workers just a couple years ago has not made much of a difference for employees.

"If you take the salary and benefit level of state employees today and compare it to what it was nine years ago, it's less today than it was nine years ago," he said.

Workers at Tuesday's event were also incensed about a plan to shift a greater portion of the cost for healthcare onto them, with some believing it effectively amounted to pay cut.

State Employee Keisha Daniels said she has done social work with Delaware for years but is having trouble getting by on a salary of $33,000, despite furthering her education and earning a master's degree.

"I have had payment arrangements on top of payment arrangements and it's to the point where I don't know what to do," she said.

Some lawmakers turned out for the rally. Rep. Kevin Hensley (R-District 9) said the state needs to look out for its workers, even under projected budget shortfall of nearly $400 million for the next fiscal. year.

"They're needs to be a healthy balance. We need to look at healthcare and perhaps everybody paying a little more. That's a separate discussion. That's a separate topic," he said.

House Minority Leader Danny Short (R-Seaford) said he worries about morale among state workers but feels it will be difficult for raises to happen under such a tough budget climate.

"I really do," he said. "But on the flip side of that we do have a serious, budget deficit and we do have to make it up."

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