One visitor unable to fit into Courtroom #1 was the AFSCME 15' high Fat Cat. He suddenly appeared next to the Courthouse about an hour or so before the meeting. AFSCME is the labor union that represents most Northampton County workers. Wearing a John Brown sign around its neck, this Fastidious Feline was wringing the neck of a hapless worker. Union members rallied alongside, as cars driving by honked their horns
|Corrections Officers Union Prez Tom Davis|
Sitting in the seat usually occupied by a President Judge, Council President Peg Ferraro did a commendable job of making sure that everyone who wanted to speak was able to do so, with only minimal interruption.
AFSCME union agent Justus James was both the leadoff and cleanup hitter, getting two opportunities to speak, thanks to some employees who surrendered their time to him.
|Allison Moyer, a LPN at Gracedale |
(billed at birth)
Tom Davis, President of the Corrections Officers' union, pointed out that the jail is now 30 officers short. He stated he's approached Brown about this matter three times, noting that it creates a dangerous situation for officers who are forced to work overtime. "Do you know what it's like to work a day shift after working a night shift?" he asked, noting that some officers are forced to do this three times a week.
"Brown always says he's evaluating the situation," noted Davis. "Well, sir, you've been on the job long enough!"
|Lehigh Tp's Mike Myers spoke against|
public sector unions
Another jail employee, Wanda Heitzman, called the short staffing a "recipe for disaster."
Kelly Higgins, a Gracedale LPN who put herself through school, thanked Brown for placing her "one step closer to foreclosure." She agreed that some benefit reductions might be necessary, but "give it to us in little bits," Noting that lives from paycheck to paycheck, she warned, "We're not going away and we're not going away quietly."
|Justus James - "Hell No to the co-insurance"|
Though nearly everyone at the meeting were opposed to Brown's health plan reductions, he had some supporters.
Bethlehem Township resident Ben Hedrick, a regular attendee at Northampton County Council meetings, told the audience, "I have been where you are now." But he asked them to consider fixed income senior citizens like himself.
|Another packed house|
Myers' comments brought one last speaker, a Gracedale maid, to the podium. Carrying a sign that asked Brown if his health plan was going to be modified, she handed it to him as she went up to speak.
|Employee's gift to Brown ended up|
in a garbage can
As people spoke against Brown's health plan changes, some began yelling at Council member Glenn Geissinger to "pay attention to the speakers." Ferraro reminded the crowd that they need to be respectful, and some responded that applies to Geissinger, too.
Executive Brown declined to respond to any of the speakers, choosing instead to make some brief remarks about his proposed no-tax-hike budget.
But Council responded.
Bob Werner introduced a nonbinding resolution that, after a minor amendment suggested by Ferraro, called on Brown to change his health plan to reduce its financial hardship. Werner acknowledged his resolution "isn't worth the paper it's written on," but wants Brown to know that Council is siding with the employees.
All Democratic members of Council, along with Republican Peg Ferraro, voted for the Resolution. Republicans Mat Benol, Glenn Geissinger and Hayden Phillips were opposed. Seth Vaughn abstained, and it was adopted by a 5-3-1 vote.
Scott Parsons asked why Vaughn abstained, and he explained that the resolution is meaningless. But he voted for an equally meaningless commuter tax resolution in his very next vote.