By editorial board • 

County dodges strike; workers sound warning

News item:

County workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees threaten to strike, shutting down crucial functions. Pay that allegedly lags behind that of comparable positions elsewhere seems the main obstacle.

The union contends inadequate compensation erodes morale and triggers debilitating turnovers. It demands comparability studies prompting new rounds of raises to address discrepancies.

The union complains the county treats its top administrator lavishly by comparison, sending resentment rippling through the ranks. It demands a greater measure of fairness.

“Despite giving themselves double-digit raises, the county commissioners are insisting on a union contract that will lower the take home pay of many of our peers,” one worker argues. “The county is going to lose people who care about the people they serve,” another laments. A third contends, “The county has continued to financially reward managers, administrators and commissioners, while leaving behind front-line staff.”

Fallout from failed negotiations that brought workers to the brink of a strike earlier this month in Yamhill County? Actually, fallout from failed negotiations that led county workers to strike Lane County for more than a week earlier this month.

The point is, there is a common pattern to union rhetoric, particularly when it involves the same parent representing the same kinds of workers toiling at the same level of government. You can count on unions like AFSCME to infuse a similar theme into the talks involving its various units.

However, it would be foolish for Yamhill County’s hired and elected leadership to dismiss worker grievances automatically, now that a new contract has been signed.
The union stakes out positions designed to resonate with both its members and the public they serve. It has a lot of experience identifying weak points in a  jurisdiction’s contract with workers and using that as a rallying cry.

If the union sees lack of respect and reward as potential flashpoints, the county owes itself — and its constituency — to conduct a measured examination leading to a measured response. Allowing resentment to fester over the three years of the new pact is a recipe for approaching the brink again, if not plunging beyond.

Nothing is more devastating to a governmental agency than a protracted strike mounted by angry members of its main employee unit. The McMinnville School District proved an apt example, as a bitter strike left wounds so deep they still linger in local memories.

Events were recalled this way in a recent letter to the editor: “As one who sadly remembers the teachers’ strike almost 28 years ago, when working conditions and lack of respect and trust were cited as the main reasons ... , it is heartbreaking to see  our county employees experiencing a similar situation.”

Granted, those were the words of a union advocate. Nonetheless, we believe the county could take note and profit.

If it is wise, the county will use the interim between its triennial negotiating rounds to address concerns surfacing through the ranks.
 

Comments

Don Dix

Why is this discussion not about total compensation for any position? That would include wages, PERS, vacation, health insurance, sick leave, personal days, and any other 'perks' afforded with any particular county.

When union talk is only about comparing wages, it's a virtual guarantee something is amiss. It feels like if the conversation were to broaden to the total compensation to put a worker in a position, possibly the union demands would lose considerable traction.

Let's see the truth of the entire matter, not only what the union wants to discuss and complain about!

Denise

Don,

Right.

You’re missing the point. The top brass, like Laura Tschabold, gets massive raises because they authorize wage studies to benefit themselves, but refuse to authorize wage studies to those actually doing the work.

Her ugly hypocrisy is staggering.

And to be sure, Laura is benefiting from County perks every bit as the union covered employees.

Don Dix

Denise -- If the benefits were lacking (compared to other counties), that's what we would be discussing. And an earlier report stated that the new hires were aware that the better benefits offered by the county would equalize smaller wage packages.

As any business owner would agree, it's not just the cost of wages to put a worker on the payroll -- it's every associated dollar.

And, as stated previously, the union isn't interested in comparing total compensation, only wages. It wouldn't be a big surprise if Yamhill County benefit packages were at the root of future union negotiations for other counties -- kind of a back and forth escalating scale, if you will.

Consider this -- it would be interesting (and possibly quite damaging to union demands) if the top union administrators (union brass) were to disclose their financial agreements and compensation packages for public inspection. My gut tells me Ms. Tschabold's and other county top brass packages would pale in comparison.

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