The contract that was recently ratified by members of the Teamsters Local 445 in Sullivan County is bare bones compared to recent contracts, but union officials say it reflects the economic realities of the times.
There will be no salary increase for members of the county government’s largest union in the first year; there will also be no increase in the second year, but all union employees will receive a $750 signing bonus; in the third year, there will be a 1% increase; the fourth year will see another 1% increase, but most employees will pay an additional $150 toward health insurance; in the fifth year there will be a 2% increase but employees will pay an additional $350 towards health insurance.
Speaking to reporters at the government center on September 17, secretary-treasurer and principal officer of the local, Adrian Huff, said, “The important thing about the contract is that it protects the New York State Health Insurance Program; that’s important to our folks. The contract also protects them from furlough days. It also protects the retirees and the new people coming in. In the past, they’ve gone after the new hires, and we’ve protected everybody there. We would have liked to see more money, but we understand the economic times.”
Regarding the increase to the contribution in health care costs, shop steward Douglas Bowman said, “What they’re asking us to contribute is more than fair. That’s why members of the negotiating committee decided to bring it to a vote of the membership.”
The vote was close, but the membership ratified the agreement. During the last election, bad feelings between the unions that represent county workers and elected officials contributed to the election of six new legislators out of a total of nine. This time around, despite the slim contract, the mood is much more amicable.
On September 17, Bowman addressed a legislative committee, and said, “I have been here for 23 years, and every year I have been one of the lead negotiators. And I believe this time the county put before us the best team to negotiate with us, because they were fair and honest, and this is the first time they have ever been fair and honest.”
County chairman Scott Samuelson said, “I would like to thank the union because I do think it was a very fair and equitable negotiation. I think it was handled on both sides very well and very fairly.”
But not all is peaceful throughout the workplace. Bowman took a shot at a former union official, who according to Bowman was trying to get the contract rejected. He said to the legislators, “During the period of time that he was our leader, as our business agent, he was worthless, and he is worthless now.”