After 6 months of negotiations, Jackson County employees vote to authorize a strike.”I’ve felt completely disrespected by management.”
Jackson County employees voted overwhelmingly over the weekend to authorize a strike.
“Throughout this process I have felt completely disrespected by management,” said Angela Cruthirds. “Our main issue is healthcare. County employees deserve a healthcare plan we can afford to use. We can’t go back to our low-wage members and tell them they’re going to have to skip doctors visits for the next three years.”
Members of the Union will be meeting over the coming days to determine when a strike will occur. Employees are required to give 10 days notice prior to going on strike.
The main issue separating employees and management is healthcare. The current healthcare plan is so expensive that many employees can’t afford to use it, opting to forgo trips to the doctor or rely on the emergency room for preventative care. The current plan costs employees $184 per month and has a $15,000 out-of-pocket max.
Management has repeatedly rejected a proposal to switch county employees to the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB). Doing so would provide better healthcare to employees and save taxpayers $3.5 million over the life of the contract. Instead, the county has offered to put employees on management’s healthcare plan. The employee’s bargaining team is open to that idea, but only if management guarantees that the cost and design of the plan won’t change for the life of the contract (2020 – 2022).
“There’s not a lot of trust right now,” said Melissa Unger, executive director of SEIU Local 503. “Over the last six months, management has refused to allow us to move into PEBB, even though it would save the taxpayers money. When they offered our members a spot in their plan, they thought we should pay more out of pocket than managers who make far higher salaries. It’s just so disrespectful how they have treated our members during these negotiations.”
Other issues that remain unresolved:
- Cost of living increase (COLA): The Union proposes a retroactive COLA to compensate workers who have gone without a new contract since July 2019. Management proposes a non-retroactive COLA.
- Salary study: The Union proposes a salary study that includes Lane county as a comparator. Lane county has a similar population to Medford and was used as a comparator when the county raised management salaries. Management proposes a salary study that does not include any county with a population close to Jackson County.
- Internal bidding: The Union proposes to keep internal bidding – employees’ ability to bid into a position before it is posted publicly. Management proposes to end internal bidding.