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County Workers Stage Downtown Protest Over Unsettled Labor Contracts


Hundreds of county workers gathered on Main Street outside the County Office building on Tuesday, bearing picket signs and labor grievances over what has been a long, drawn-out negotiation process for members of the CSEA Local 828, Unit 7400 labor union.

The union represents more than 1,800 local workers who serve in Monroe County area hospitals, DMVs, social services, and more. Their collective contracts with the county department expired at the beginning of 2013 and have yet to be renewed.

The union’s unit officers declared an impasse over the negotiations back in May. They sought to use the public demonstration as a means to call greater attention to their demands.

“I just want them to meet at the table and help us out,” said Kevin Carey, a county worker at the protests. “We’re here to get a contract, [and] can’t seem to get anyone to sit at the table. We are part of the community. We pay taxes. We vote. We want to be treated fairly.”

A key issue on the docket is health care spending, which cost the county $25.7 million last year to provide for workers and retirees. Though only 40% of U.S. workers under age 65 have employer-based healthcare coverage, the county wants to cut healthcare spending in exchange for wage raises, which the union has been reluctant to concede.

Local 828 is not the only union having difficulties settling labor contracts with the county. Also in attendance were area firefighters, jail workers, engineers, and security officers who have been without contracts for a similar length of time.

Wayne Guest, executive president of the Monroe County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, said the uncertainty and precarity has affected worker morale. “The county really doesn’t care anymore, you know,” he said said. “Obviously the men and women in the jail that I represent are going to continue to do their best job because we are sworn professionals.”

Ove Ovemeyer, a spokesperson for the local CSEA, said the protests were designed to raise local community awareness about the ongoing labor issues. “We are just trying explain to the community that look, this stuff has got to stop because it effects everybody,” he said. “It is not just about giving workers a wage increase. This is about giving workers [the] tools and resources to do their job, be successful at the job and in life. When they are, everybody prospers.”