Northampton County's "residual unit" is a collection of around 250 or so employees who mostly consist of the row office, 911 and maintenance workers. In the three years since they've organized as an AFSCME union, there has been no contract. And these people are all suffering as a result.
You see, these folks are already at the bottom of the Northampton County payscale. A few years ago, four long-term employees qualified for home heating assistance. A few even qualified for food stamps. That situation has only grown worse because there have been no wage increases for nearly four years. Wal-mart is routinely criticized because its wages are so bad that employees must turn to public assistance, but that same criticism applies to Northampton County, a public employer.
Starting today, county employees will make their voices heard. An open letter to county Executive John Stoffa, in poster form, will be exhibited near the rotunda. Employees will be encouraged to sign that letter. Here's their letter.
We are writing to set the record straight on the commitments you made during your election campaign and to express our views on your handling of our contract negotiations.
In your open letter to County employees of August 1, 2006 you claimed that you never promised voluntary interest arbitration for the Residual Unit. We beg to differ. On September 7, 2005 you and your opponent met with leaders from four AFSCME Local Unions and four of the newly organized AFSCME units. At that meeting you agreed to extend voluntary binding arbitration to the Residual Unit. At a meeting on October 5, 2005 you were invited and appeared at a mass meeting of employees in the five newly organized units. This time, over one hundred and fifty employees heard you say firsthand that you were in favor of voluntary interest arbitration for the Residual Unit.
Based on your assurances, AFSCME contacted over 2,000 of its members in Northampton County and recommended they and their family members vote for you in the November General Election. You won that election by 2,070 votes out of 40,506 votes cast.
This summer, the County's 2006 unreserved fund balance stood at around 35 million dollars. New managers in your administration are being hired near the top of the management pay scale while senior rank and file employees remain on the lower rungs of their pay scale! The entire cost of AFSCME's first year wage proposal, including the cost of correcting these inequities, is approximately 1.5 million dollars. Yet despite your campaign rhetoric, you propose as two year freeze on our wages.
We demand fairness, we demand equity, and we demand them NOW.