Early last month we posted an open letter to Chair Wheeler regarding the wage freeze and two of his staff being given a wage increase. Since that posting Michael and have had several conversations with the Chair’s office. This memorandum is to provide you with updated status.
Last night Chair Wheeler and Jana McLellan were guests at our monthly E-board meeting. We had a robust and open dialogue. Tough questions were asked and answered. At the end of the evening, we agreed to continue the discussion and have ongoing dialogues and issues that impact workers. Please contact your E-board representative, Chief Steward, or one of the officers for more details.
As you already know, Chair Wheeler had two agreements that he signed; one, our MOA (attached), and one, an employment contract with his two staff members, which outlined the terms of their agreement. Elected officials staff are not management, nor do they fall under civil service or regular recruiting guidelines. They serve at the pleasure of the elected official. From Wheeler’s viewpoint he kept both agreements and the two agreements don’t conflict.
Let’s review the components of our agreement:
1) The savings which resulted from our taking a wage freeze would go to restore services and jobs of Local 88 staff. We saved nearly 80 jobs. Another 124 individuals were impacted by the layoff, but only 25 lost their job (2 JCSS and 23 General); the others were able to stay employed either by bumping, demoting or through Project Save. There were a total of 53 who were laid off Countywide. (see attached chart)
2) Cuts would be proportional. In the past 9 years management reductions had been around 5% and line staff around 10%. This year 10 management positions were cut and 43 line staff;, it is a significant improvement.
3) Management would not get wage increases, bonus payments or extra administrative time off. The Chair sent out an executive memo in March ordering that to occur. (attached) All line staff supervisors, managers and department directors had their wages frozen.
When we first learned of the wage increase for two of the Chair’s staff, I was upset; however, we didn’t have all the facts and it was being pushed out to the media before we had an opportunity to investigate or collect the facts. And while disappointed about the Chair’s staff wage increase – when having all the facts it doesn’t violate our agreement.
What we did was impressive! I am very proud to be affiliated with an organization that will take personal sacrifices to support co-workers and our community. Other unions have done the same thing all around the country. Some employees who are not in unions didn’t have the option of voting; they were just told what would happen.
I would like to thank all of you who have participated in the discussion. There has been a lot of frustration and anger expressed about the situation. There has been some discussion that we are a weak union because we didn’t force the Chair to change his mind. I disagree. I know we are a strong union because we saved jobs, negotiated 30 hour health care coverage, restored use of comp-time usage in one department, enhanced our benefits and more. We don’t always achieve everything we strive for, that doesn’t diminish our voice in the workplace, our advocacy for individuals, work units and the entire membership. I believe our action strengthened Local 88.
We formed a Task Force to look at a crisis, analyzed the information and looked at possible options. We took an offensive response to the national and local economic crisis. We reached out and held many meetings to discuss the situation and finally scheduled a vote with a huge response and 63% responding by voting yes. We negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement that had components which have never been included in the past. We saved jobs. We didn’t save them all but we saved most of them!
Local 88 is a collective of workers. Our strength comes from our participation in the union, standing and working together for the rights and benefits of all those we represent, ourselves and our coworkers. I would encourage you to get involved and attend the meetings – help to make the decisions; participate in the union.