Washtenaw County employees picket for wage increase as negotiations continue on expired contract •

Ignoring the wet, cold weather on Saturday, Washtenaw County employees marched outside the Washtenaw County Administration Building in downtown Ann Arbor, holding signs that demanded “Bargain Fairly” and “Fair Wages for Workers Now,” as passing cars honked in support.

The employees, as well as their supervisors, are unionized with AFSCME Locals 2733 and 3052, and the Michigan Nurses Association. They work in the county’s court system, Community Mental Health (CMH), Juvenile Detention Center, Crisis Services and Parks and Recreation Department. 

Union members with AFSCME Locals 2733 and 3052, and the Michigan Nurses Association, picket outside the Washtenaw County Administration Building in downtown Ann Arbor. March 30, 2024. Photo by Jon King.

Workers have been without a contract since Dec. 31 and are demanding equitable annual pay increases, similar to what non-union employees receive.

Mary Campbell is president of Local 2733, which with 650 employees is the largest of the bargaining units. She told the the county’s original proposal was a 3% raise in January and then another 3% on the anniversary of the contract.

“We wanted that 3% in January to be a table mover, which means the salary range changes and 5% on the anniversary,” she said. “Last year they brought all of themselves up to what they thought their salary grades should be, and we’ve had issues with them bringing the general workers’ salaries up to what they should be. That table should be moving and it’s not.”

Many of those on the picket line noted that while they are pressing for a 2% increase, many of the county’s upper management employees are receiving increases that approach 40%.

“[Washtenaw County Administrator] Greg Dill’s salary increase from last year is greater than what I make in a full year,” Washtenaw County Trial Court Recorder Corinne Bruder told the Advance

According to the county’s website, Dill’s salary increased from $207,723 in 2022 to $272,363 in 2023, an approximately 24% increase.

“We are all public service employees and we are the ones that directly impact how the services work to the people of this county,” said Bruder. “We’re literally the definition of overworked and underpaid.”

Dill, however, said the issues are being addressed and he was optimistic an agreement would be reached.

“We are absolutely working with our labor partners to try to address the concerns that they’ve lifted up,” he said in a phone message to the Advance. “My goal certainly is to come up with an agreement that makes sense for not only our labor partners, but our organization as well, and we’ll continue to pledge to work together with them on that.” 

But that optimism is not a shared sentiment for union members, especially since negotiations for a new contract began last June and they say the county has essentially not engaged them in any meaningful way on the wage scale issue, which is the main demand.

“The response so far is that ‘we’ll give you raises, but we won’t move the scales,’ so, if you’re at the top of the scale, ‘Oh, well, so sad’,” said Nancy Heine, president of Local 3052, which represents county supervisors. “We’ve looked at this latest offer that they’ve given us. It would be concessionary. They would be taking more money out of our pocket than we would be getting in. They want to increase our health care premiums that we pay for and they want to increase the parking, too. And it’s not sustainable for our families.”

Union members with AFSCME Locals 2733 and 3052, and the Michigan Nurses Association, picket outside the Washtenaw County Administration Building in downtown Ann Arbor. March 30, 2024. Photo by Jon King.

That has consequences that only make the situation worse, according to Bruder.

“The turnover is extremely high,” she said. “There’s positions now in the trial court that we’re unfilled for a while and then administration decided we’re just going to leave them unfilled so everybody else can just work more and not be compensated.”

Campbell says what makes it even more frustrating is that Washtenaw County is ranked as the second-richest county in the state of Michigan.

“What about the fact that nurses elsewhere are getting this money? Why are nurses here not getting that kind of money or case workers for CMH or your clerks in the clerk’s office or over at the courthouse that they make this much in another entity? Why are they not making it here in Washtenaw County?” she said.

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authored by Jon King
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2024%2F04%2F01%2Fwashtenaw-county-employees-picket-for-wage-increase-as-negotiations-continue-on-expired-contract%2F

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