AUGUSTA, G.A. (WJBF) – Several Democratic state representatives are demanding local labor offices open their doors. That’s after being closed for more than a year now.
This video shows Democratic state representatives being confronted while protesting outside of the Georgia department of labor office in Augusta Wednesday evening.
“The sheriff showed up and they told us that we were on their property the department of labor and he asked us to go across the street to do our rally and then I politely told him, respectively told him this was public property,” said Democratic Representative William Boddie Jr.
Representative Boddie says he and a group of Democratic representatives, labor leaders, and local activists have been traveling across the state rallying in front of local career centers demanding they open their doors. Representative Boddie is calling Wednesday’s incident a political tactic.
“You have the Georgia Department of Labor, the officials, instead of trying to help constituents with the citizens with unemployment claims, they call the law enforcement on people and citizens and leaders that are trying to get help for citizens that need the department of labor when they have lost their jobs at no fault of their own,” he said.
Department of Labor offices across the state have been closed since the start of the pandemic.
“I’ve had calls and conversations with citizens that are contemplating suicide because they don’t know how they’re going to feed their families,” he added.
Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says he didn’t know anything about the incident. He says, his workers were following the law.
“These individuals showed up at an office unannounced with a protest. It is standard procedure for the safety of the employees without knowing who is outside the door to notify law enforcement, for them to think this is anything other than basic procedure, this would happen in almost any situation in any state agency, said Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.
Commissioner Butler says they’re having to keep their doors closed for the safety of their workers and the closed doors is the result of staffing shortages.
“Our offices were hit very hard by the delta variant we have had over 40 positive cases we’ve had four hospitalizations and 3 deaths in just the last 60 days an ad so those plans had to be put on hold,” he said.
And while Democratic state leaders say Wednesday’s incident was a tactic, Commissioner Butler says the democratic party is pulling their own tactics too.
“They’re trying to run for this office so obviously they’re going to attack me personally, but they know why we haven’t opened yet they’ve all been informed,” said Commissioner Butler.
Commissioner Butler says there is no definite timeline on when those offices will open back up, but for now, citizens will have to do their own legwork.
“Quite frankly, these politicians need to be focused on helping these people get back to work and letting them know, hey, there’s lots of jobs, if you look right around our office right now there’s probably wanted ads,” he said.