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County Workers Protest Proposed Cuts In Salaries, Benefits

Hundreds of workers crowded the board chambers Tuesday morning to protest the cuts; negotiations were extended another week.

Bay City News

Hundreds of Contra Costa County workers crowded into the Board of Supervisors chambers in Martinez this morning to rally against pay and benefit cuts being considered by the county, and the board decided to continue negotiations for another week. 

The county was threatening to impose the changes today over the objections of a coalition of five unions that represent more than 4,400 employees, including clerks, social workers, engineers, custodians, gardeners and medical staff, before deciding to extend the talks. 

According to the labor coalition, the county's "last, best and final offer" would have imposed a 3 percent pay cut effective Dec. 1 of this year, and would also have required workers represented by the five unions to pay nearly double what they currently contribute to their pension plans and to cover all health care cost increases.
         
By 9:30 a.m., a long line of union workers waited their turn to address the board.
         
Though their job titles varied, many of the workers who spoke expressed the same concerns and frustrations with what they said would amount to a 9 percent pay cut.

Martinez resident Tiffany Morgenstern, a county worker for 21 years, told the board she is "shocked and ashamed at this board's disparate treatment" of its lowest-paid workers.

"I request that the board work with the coalition to craft a contract that is considerate and compassionate ... do the right thing," she said, drawing applause.

Another point of contention is that workers say the county is offering to pay a greater share of health care cost increases for Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies, who ratified a two-year contract with the county last week. The board is considering adopting that agreement today.

According to the coalition's statement, health care cost increases will mean more than $100 out of pocket for most employees with family health care coverage.

For longtime county workers like 53-year-old Linda Brown, who said she is on the verge of losing her Pittsburg home, the additional expense is an especially heavy burden to bear.

County spokeswoman Betsy Burkhart said recently that the proposed pay and benefit cuts are necessary because of drastically declining revenues in recent years.

Janet Maiorana December 10, 2011 at 04:48 AM
The Contra Costa Community College District Trustees recently voted to approve the Planned Labor Agreement negotiation (PLA) with Trustee John Nejedly dissenting. The PLA will inflate the price taxpayers pay for construction jobs on the 3 campuses. Students will benefit less from taxpayer approved school bonds. The PLA is unfair to non-union contractors. After attending this meeting one would have no doubt of the strangle hold unions have over Califonia. Unions packed the meeting with workers wearing themed T-shirts. A prominent pro-labor lawyer and people spoke reading letters of support from every member of Congress & state legislator with constituents in the district. State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley showed up. She had just received a re-election endorsement from pro-PLA Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council. Greg Feere, chief trades council stated he did not want to just beat the anti-PLA people, he wanted to annihilate them. I was one of the few who spoke against the PLA. It is understandable that those few who spoke quickly left the meeting. Too scary to stay. It is clear, there is no hope. Janet Maiorana
Patrick J. McNamara December 10, 2011 at 05:34 PM
Yes Kathleen they do. But out of what source of funds do they pay those taxes? If I let myself into your home and eat your food, use your shower and take half of the cash I find hidden in your sock drawer, am I no longer harming you if I later mail back 20% of the money I took? After all, I paid my "taxes" right? Every single penny that is paid to a public sector employee through salary, benefits and pension are taken from the households of the private (productive) sector to fund the public (unproductive) sector. That those public employees pay taxes too, only slows the drainage a little bit. For that reason, whatever the public buys with their taxes should be both absolutely necessary, and also competitively priced, not artificially inflated by corruption or social engineering.
Patrick J. McNamara December 10, 2011 at 05:38 PM
Alex I suspect that when the 47% who pay no income taxes begin to do so, the 53% who do pay income taxes will feel more united with them. That 1% I keep hearing about includes a staggering number of the upper echelon of public administrators, ruling over their fiefdoms.
jodie shields December 14, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Well the proposed plan passed and while I was told we were lucky because they were proposing and 3.2% cut, paying 100% percent of your pension (although you do not have a choice, they will just take it) and paying double for your healthcare. So they brought the pay cut down to 2.75%. Just like a car dealership, and the union thought they did a great job. So while I have to move, from my small place to a smaller place, maybe go without the healthcare till I can find a second job, can anyone take my dog?
Carolyn December 19, 2011 at 04:14 PM
The county abuse is on the top. The lowly workers should not be punished. The cuts always come from the foundation. Let the public try and get along without the county government. You need them more than you think.

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