Paden City Resident Advocate for WorkMoney
PADEN CITY, WV – In late 2019, Gary Walton of Paden City was making $109,000 per year as an oil drilling technician. It was a good job that paid for a comfortable life, but like many in Wetzel County and across the country, he was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic and forced to look elsewhere for work.
After six months without an income, desperation led him to take a job in drywall manufacturing making a third of his previous salary. It wasn’t enough. Unable to find a good-paying job in West Virginia, he next found a new job in Ohio, where he was forced to drive 90 minutes each way to work, and took home half of what he was making before the pandemic.
Only recently, Walton was able to secure a job at the Hannibal Locks and Dam, where he still only makes 70 percent of his pre-pandemic salary.
According to him, the past year has taken a financial toll. “We had to give up paying bills on time so that we could eat and afford healthcare. My wife had to pick up extra hours at Wendy’s. She goes to work at 5:00 am every day just so we can feed our kids,” Walton shared.
This experience inspired Walton to become involved in national politics through WorkMoney, an organization dedicated to making American life more affordable and American families economically secure. WorkMoney is organizing a national campaign of voters across the political spectrum like Walton to advocate for the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.
Although Walton voted for Trump, this past month, he and other WorkMoney members met with the office of Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to advocate for Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan.“This isn’t about political parties; it’s about what’s right and wrong for America,” said Walton. “We need good jobs like we once had in West Virginia. I’m afraid my kids don’t have a future in this economy. The working class needs the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan.”
The following week, negotiations between Senator Capito and the White House broke down. “I said, it’s time for Senator Capito to forget about politics. This is about the American people and our lives. This is about being a patriot.” WorkMoney is next trying to arrange for Walton and other WorkMoney members to meet with Senator Manchin’s office.
According to the White House, if passed, The American Jobs Plan would invest $300 billion to revitalize the manufacturing industry, which accounts for 6.5% of the state’s workforce, and would create more “good paying” clean energy jobs, which employed 10,078 West Virginians as of 2019. The American Families Plan would provide two free years of community college and extend tax cuts for workers and families with children.
“Gary’s story, like the other 2 million members at WorkMoney, shows how out of touch DC partisan politics is with the rest of America,” said WorkMoney founder and CEO Carrie Joy Grimes. “Hard-working Americans of all political stripes want members of Congress to stop playing politics, pass a big jobs bill, and start delivering jobs that pay more and basics that cost less.”
Walton agrees, and explained how his recent political activism was unexpected.
“I never thought I would be talking to elected officials to ask for financial relief,” said Walton. “I also never thought I’d be giving President Biden a chance back when I was rooting for Trump’s reelection. But we’re all in different places than we were when the pandemic hit, and we all need to be in this together to come out whole.”