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Hours Before Fallin Signs Their Pay Raise, State Employees Demonstrate In Norman

Caroline Halter/KGOU
(From left to right) State employees Jennifer Malwick, J.R. Holaday-Herrington, Kim Harjo and Missi Webb demonstrate in Norman on April 3, 2018.


Employees from several human services agencies gathered on the corner of 12th and Robinson in Norman Tuesday afternoon, holding signs and waving to cars driving by. It was one of several of this week’s demonstrations by state employees, who have joined teachers to protest department funding and salaries.

Jennifer Malwick was one of about 30 state employees to use a Tuesday lunch break or paid leave to send a message to state lawmakers. Malwick’s sign said, I help the people you won’t make eye contact with.

“The people in our facility need help, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, and we’re there for that,” Malwick said. “And we just don’t have any support.”

Malwick has worked at Griffin Memorial Hospital for 13 years. During that time she said she’s received one 36 cent pay raise.

Later in the day, Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill that provides a tiered pay raise to state workers -- giving larger raises to workers who earn less.

House Bill 1024XX, gives the largest raise of $2,000 to state employees earning $40,000 or less. Those making between $40,000 to $50,000 will get a $1,500 increase, and salaries between $50,000 - $60,000 will get a boost of $1,000. And state employees making $60,000 or more will see a $750 increase.

But, for Malwick, the pay raise alone is not enough. She wants the state to increase funding for services like Griffin, an in-patient facility that treats diagnoses like anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Griffin Memorial Hospital is considering closing its outpatient program, says Malwick, and closures like this create a ripple effect for other public employees.

“There’s going to be more people in the prisons, more untreated children in the classrooms,” she said. “So it’s going to affect all the agencies. It’s not just mental health.”

Despite last week’s historic tax increase, Malwick is not optimistic about lawmakers increasing agency funding during the remaining two months of the 2018 legislative session.

Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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