The county and union bargaining teams did not meet on Wed Sep 17th because the county is sticking to their proposal that would allow them to move our health care over to one of the state-wide insurance pools (either PEBB or OEBB) and Local 88 are not willing to change the proposal for a 1% premium added to the usual cost of living adjustment (COLA). Management must understand this is an issue of integrity, of authentically recognizing the sacrifices given by Local 88 members. When the national recession hit, the county was faced with the reality that critical public services would have to be severely reduced, and in some cases cut altogether. But the Multnomah County Employee’s Union Local 88 stepped up in 2009 with a COLA freeze and step freeze to help balance the county budget. As the recession persisted, Local 88 again agreed to forego another COLA in 2012. The reduced payroll costs meant millions in savings, so programs and services were saved. Now Multnomah County’s finances have stabilized and the structural deficit has been closed. The county is moving ahead, but is leaving the employees behind. The union has asked that they return us a fraction of what was given. The county have made no attempts to explore options, no offers of a compromise, just “No”.
In response, the bargaining team collected over 1,550 member petition cards and several letters supporting the COLA proposal which were delivered to County Chair Deborah Kafoury at a short meeting on Tuesday, Sept 23. Staff representative and lead negotiator for Local 88 Bryan Lally and Local 88 President Deirdre Mahoney-Clark sat down with Chair Kafoury and a policy advisor, Casey Filice to discuss the financial sacrifice county employees have made. They explained that the pay freezes members took in 2009 and 2012 impacted them not just for that year. The members feel the effects to this day, as the lost income compounds over time.
Also discussed were the other main issue on the table, losing shared control over determining our health care providers. Lally explained that while going into one of the state-wide insurance pools might be beneficial at some point in the future, Local 88 needs to have a say in whether that happens. Our current method for working on health care provides a lot more control over how changes are dealt with; it doesn’t make sense to hand over control to a statewide board unless there is data showing that the move makes good sense.
Chair Kafoury asked pertinent questions and it was a good conversation. Lally and Mahoney-Clark left the meeting feeling it was positive but with no statements from the Chair one way or the other on any position or direction she might direct the management bargaining team to take, however the next bargaining session was proposed for Wednesday, October 1.
We will soon learn if our message requesting equity, a reduction to the ongoing earning reduction, and support from county leadership has been heard.
The bargaining team and member action teams have been instrumental in communication with members across the county and are preparing to escalate member visibility within the community we serve. The bargaining team met the evening after delivery of the petition cards to Chair Kafoury, to develop future action plans and communication strategies.