Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Will Northampton County Council Members Cross Picket Line?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWhat do Wal-Mart and residual Northampton County employees have in common? They're both paid meager wages yet are expected to serve the public with a smile. Many of them qualify for some form of public assistance.

Northampton County employees are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. Former executive Glenn Reibman eliminated over 100 jobs and sent over forty of them home. They've seen no payraises in nearly four years. While judges have a nice new private dining room for their little luncheons, the rank and file eat in hallways.

Many workers have no appetite, anyway. They're sickened by all the mold, leaks and terrible smells that accompanied the courthouse expansion. In the meantime, a disinterested county council very nearly gave itself a nice little payraise even though some county employees in the residual unit now rely on food stamps.

On Monday, I told you the county's residual unit of about 250 employees has begun circulating a letter to County Exec John Stoffa demanding voluntary binding arbitration of its contractual negotiations. Some blame Stoffa for the delay while others blame union leaders.

Courthouse workers also plan to rally outside the courthouse on Thursday at 4:30 P.M. to demand a fair contract. Council members on their way to their bi-weekly meeting will have to pass through a gauntlet of unhappy workers, who intend to address council.

But will there be a meeting? Some council members privately state they will not pass through a union picket line in a gesture of solidarity. Gee, that's nice, but they would do far more good by being honest. Some tell administrators to pay less, yet encourage union leaders to hold out for more. It's little wonder there's no contract.

Voluntary binding arbitration? How long will that take? Another county union for deputy sheriffs has asked for arbitration and they won't get one until April.

If council stops sending mixed signals and permits the union and adminstrators to take an honest stab at round-the-clock negotiations, they just might avoid arbitration and resolve this contractual dispute in time for some to have a Merry Christmas.

28 comments:

LSTresidentPIA said...

Now I must admit that I am confused. There is no strike, so it really is not a picket line. It is a rally to draw attention to the county employees issues. So why wouldn't Mr. Dertinger or anyone else go to the county council meeting that night?

Bernie O'Hare said...

LST, You'r right. It is just a rally, but some council members have expressed reservatons about crossing the line of union workers, whether it is a rally or picket line. They don't wish to give offense.

LSTresidentPIA said...

I would be offended if council members did not show up to the meeting on Thursady. There is important work to be done.
As far as I know there are alot of unhappy county employees including corrections officers.

I would like to know if you are exagerating about county employees being on food stamps? Do they also have to use the horrible county mental health servies?

I would like to know more about what perks ther are to being a county employee, such as health insurance or what?

To me these people are lucky to have a job, I have been unemployeed for 14 months and I can't even get a crappy minimum wage job.

Anonymous said...

LST, I would like to know if YOU'RE exaggerating about not being able to get a "crappy minimum wage job." The local classifieds are chock full of crappy minimum wage jobs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

LST, Last wek I knew that some long-term employees were "qualified" to participate in some assistance programs, like home heating assistance. This included employees with 12 or 13 yrs. of seniority. But I only knew they were qualified. I did not know that they were participating.

But yesterday, after speaking to a few, I learned the truth. Several of them acknowledged they are on food stamps. I'm not going to name names for obvious reasons.

My information is by no means scientific. I don't have a roster and I didn't go down the list and interview everyone on it. And I'm no reporter. It amazes me how much someone like Muschick or Cassi can discover so quicky. They could certainly give youi a better answer. But I can state that some county employes in the residual unit are getting public assistance, and this includes food stamps.

LSTresidentPIA said...

I have no reason to lie. One place that I applied for a job, a little more than minimum wage, said they had humdreds of people apple for about a couple of dozen positions. And this was a national chain and open up a new store in the LV area.

LSTresidentPIA said...

I don't know what a "residual unit" is?

What I do want to know is the benefits and what they are?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The "residual unit" is a group of about 250 county employes not covered by any other union. They include row offices, maintenance, 911. For example, a clerk in the register of wills is a residual unit member.

As far as health benefits are concerned, they have been historically pretty good. I can't say whether they are good now, but I suspect they are still better than many private employers. They also have a pension.

LSTresidentPIA said...

Health benefits and a pension sound pretty good to me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

LST, The benefits package for county employees make it an attractive place to work, even with low salaries. But the security that employees once had is gone. And the last council started tinkering with benefits packages.

LSTresidentPIA said...

What do you consider a low salary?

LSTresidentPIA said...

My experience with county employees has overall been negative. It is limited to the few times I have been to the county to search for my father's deed. When I asked for help from those behind the desk, I usually got dirty looks and sighs when I aked for assistance. Luckily there was a helpful title searcher there who would offer assistance. (Not one who worked for the county either.)

I have also had trouble getting the building when attending council meetings. Security would stand there and ignore me.

I think there is a lot of negative public sentiment at this time for county employees because of the theft that occurred.

I also wonder how often county employees are reviewed for performance? When I worked in the private sector, I was reviewed every month.

It seems that for a lot of workers it is coming down to that either they make less money or have no benefits.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What do you consider a low salary?"

Mine.

Bernie O'Hare said...

LST, Of course there's bad morale. It was very bad when Reibman left, and now it's worse. I'm there and I see it first hand. And these employees get annual reviews. They are human and can only take so much.

But who can make a negative entry when there is no complaint? You say you were treated badly in the recorder's office and ignored by a deputy. Did you ask to speak to a supervisor?

LSTresidentPIA said...

NO, because I didn't know I could.
Besides, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt the first time. I got fired when someone complained about my level of customer serivce. I have been back to the recorder's office once to do research about the bridge and I ran into you and you helped so I didn't have to ask for help. And I have not been to a county council meeting since.

Chris Casey said...

You know what Bernie? why don't we nominate a complete idiot for Northampton County Board, someone with the IQ of a fig.
Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Whether its public service or the private sector, let's face it, working for a living is highly over-rated.

Anonymous said...

there are plenty of figs in Northampton and north caddy I suggest you start there

Anonymous said...

residual unit and other union members aside, there are non union career service employees getting annual raises that are well below the inflation rates and cost of living increases in the lv for the past four years. result? we are making less than we made four years ago.

LVDem said...

Normally, when I talk about unions establishing a picket line, I offer a thought of caution: don't strike when it's going to tick off the average Joe. Example: mass transit folks who strike during a major travel season, or teachers who strike around Labor Day. I'll support that strike, but the reason I offer caution is b/c when something disrupts the routine of Joe Average, they tend to get upset. The counter to the line of reasoning is that sometimes, Joe Average needs a wake up call and that a strike is the only way to make that happen. Very true, but in waking somebody up rudely, now they are upset for the rest of the day.

So, if workers in Norco think of striking, I hope they do so at a time when the inconvenience is minimal to Joe Average but is a disruption to the management that continues to with-hold fair wages. Though, I hate to say this with people like Bernie and LST around, how many people use the services that these employees provide. The disruption to Joe Average might be minimal regardless of timing.

That is all.

county residual employee said...

I can't believe you don't have anything in here about the 20% raises council just gave their staff! How is that fair! If those employees get it, then every single employee should be entitled to it in some way. I'm in the residual unit, been here 8 years and am making under $25,000. I haven't had a raise since 2003. I work 40+ hours a week and am good at what I do. I may not be management but I'm still a "professional". We have a decent benefit plan, although it's been rumored to be changing soon, but our salaries are not in line with other nearby counties. As county employees, we don't get rewarded monetarily if we're doing a good job. We get a standard cost of living raise or "step" raise, no more, no less. And for the last 3 years, I haven't even gotten that. And it looks like we won't even get retro--at least not all we're entitled to. We get reviews every 2 months for the first 6 months and then once a year from then on. Every single one of mine has been outstanding, but I get no more recognition than anyone else. That's what you have to accept being a county employee. But you don't have to accept not getting a raise, while council raises their staff's salary 20%! I can't believe more employees are not outraged by that, union or not!

LVDem said...

if that description is 1/2 true (and I believe it is), then tax payers shouldn't be surprised if there is a strike.

Bernie O'Hare said...

County residual employee: No, You're right. I said nothing about the recent salary increases for county council staff members. I also have said nothing about the high starting salary provided to Conklin, Stoffa's #2. I understand that some think this is a slap across the face. "If they're taking care of those folks, then why not us?" Your view is shared by most county employees.

But, as you might suspect, I have a different view. I think this is a good thing. It puts you in a much better bargaining position when you negotiate salaries. And it's an admission by the county that it must expect to pay for quality service. And so they should pay for you as well. Any other position is inconsistent with salary decisions already made.

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVDem, I doubt there will ever be a strike. These folks have just unionized and most of them are afraid to speak their minds. I know a segment thinks it's a great idea, but a large number of employes are very mad but very afraid.

Anonymous said...

THE SMALL GROUP OF COUNTY EMPLOYEES NOT ELIGIBLE FOR UNION MEMBERSHIP HAVE NO NEGOTIATING RIGHTS, NO VOICE, AND IF WE DID, NO ONE TO SPEAK TO. AND YES, WE ARE AFRAID. WE ARE THE NON UNION, MID MANAGEMENT RED HEADED STEP CHILDREN OF THE COUNTY. HELP!!!!!!!!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:17, I think you are still protected by career service regulations. This is little help, but it's slightly better than being an at-will employee.

Anonymous said...

TODAY'S MORNING CALL REPORTS THAT LONGEVITY BONUSES ARE ABOUT TO INCREASE FOR NON UNION EMPLOYEES. THIS MIGHT BRING ME, AS AN EXAMPLE, ABOUT TEN BUCKS A WEEK AFTER TAXES. I'M NOT AN INGRATE AND I THANK COUNCIL FOR THEIR EFFORT. THE LAST FOUR YEARS--2%-0%-4%-2%. EIGHT PERCENT OVER FOUR YEARS WITH INCREASES IN CO-PAY (RUMORED TO BE RAISED AGAIN)AND THE HUGE INCREASE IN THE L.V. COST OF LIVING. I MIGHT HAVE TO START SHOWERING IN THE COURTHOUSE FOUNTAIN TO SAVE A FEW PENNIES. WE WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

DID I SAY 10 BUCKS A WEEK? OOPS!! I MEANT 10 BUCKS A MONTH. I THINK THE HUNGER WENT TO MY HEAD.