Those words, spoken by long-time courthouse worker Pauline Taylor, best reflect the public sentiment at last night's packed county council meeting. It was the culmination of a week of worker unrest.
On Monday, employees began circulating an open letter to county exec John Stoffa, demanding a fair contract. Late yesterday afternoon, a gigantic rat mysteriously appeared on the street alongside the new courthouse. It was strangely reminiscent of Northampton County's ratpack, first described by essayist Billy Givens. Those river rats have gnawed and pawed for years at the county's wheel of cheese, breaking off pieces to fund a road for a Wal-Mart developer and a parking lot for luxury apartments at Riverport. While chewing away, the ratpack has ignored the little mice, the county's long suffering workforce.
Last night the mice roared.
As workers left their jobs, they began parading around that rat, in a swelling sea of green AFSCME shirts. And as the clock struck 6:00 PM, a tidal wave in green struck John Stoffa's office. Disgruntled county employees stormed the fourth floor, demanding that Stoffa listen to them.
"I'm working," was Stoffa's reply as he attempted an escape to his inner offices. Courthouse workers followed, knocking on his door, until Stoffa finally agreed to hear them out. As he listened to a litany of complaints, the little mice could see two big river rats near Stoffa's office, trying to listen to what was happening. They looked a little confused.
Many mice were still roaring at poor John Stoffa when the ratpack started its council meeting at 6:30 PM. Over a hundred employees crowded into chambers and stood in the halls, straining to listen as the little mice bellowed eloquently at the river rats.
Barb Martucci, an 8 year county vet, chided council: "You take care of your own at the expense of the rest of us." Another county employee with 22 years of experience, John Szabo, reminded council that "we are the bricks and mortar that make up Northampton County." And Dan Sell, a county carpenter for the past 11 years, shamed council when he confessed he makes no more money than a part time Taco Bell employee on work release from the prison.
Several courthouse employees clearly accused Stoffa of going back on a promise to allow binding arbitration. But Rose Macaluso delivered the hardest punch of the night. Several employees had emailed Stoffa to complain about council's decision to give its staff a 20% payraise while ignoring other employees. In an attempt at humor, Stoffa responded he had given council an "experimental drug and it worked." Council was not amused.
When they heard that, the river rats exploded. What outrage! Last night was not a good night for John Stoffa.
As the evening continued, and the river rats began to gnaw at each other with their usual petty squabbles, an experimental drug actually sounds like a good idea to me. A 911 employee sitting behind me in the peanut gallery, stared in disbelief as council members tossed childish insults at each other.
"And this group is representing the county? A God-damned bunch of monkeys up there!"
And it's true. Council tends to embarrass itself all the time. But the real loser last night was John Stoffa. I admire the man. He has been honest with me. But last night he looked like a liar who brushes off employees and speaks publicly of council in disparaging terms that only insane bloggers like me should use.
The real winners last night were the little mice. They finally roared. And as Pauline Taylor noted, county council and administration should all be ashamed.
And after hearing from the little mice, the ratpack responded by giving a tax break in Palmer Township to yet another developer.
And so the battle rages.