The Greene County supervisors are in new territory as they and secondary roads employees consider a new contract. The current union contract expires June 30, 2019. The new contract will be the first since the state legislature changed collective bargaining laws for public employees in 2017.
Adding to the unknown is the employees’ recent decertification of Public Professional and Maintenance Employees (PPME) as their representative.
The new law requires employee groups to recertify their union before every new contract negotiation. (Prior to the change, a decertification election was held only if a member petitioned for one.) The new law also specifies that union members who don’t vote in the election are counted as voting not to recertify.
Recertification of the PPME lost by one vote. Only three of the “no” votes were cast by employees; the rest were non-votes.
According to the Public Employment Relations Board, a contract is null and void after a vote to decertify. County engineer Wade Weiss told the supervisors other counties have extended the terms of the contract to allow time to make changes to the employee handbook. He asked the supervisors to formalize that plan.
Board chair John Muir said the decertification removed structure, and now “you have to figure out how to keep from going into chaos.”
Weiss disagreed. “We’ve got structure. I can attest to that,” he said. He has liked having the contract, but “we’re going to be able to do some things different, like promotions and things like that. This will help out.”
He added that he’s worked with union employees for 32 years and there has never been a grievance filed against him. “I guess I won’t have one filed now,” he said.
Renee Von Bokern of Von Bokern Associates, who has assisted the county with union negotiations for several years, was at the meeting for a closed session to discuss bargaining strategy. She said keeping the current contract in place until June 30 “is the most prudent and logical way to go.”
That will leave sick leave, vacation and holidays as they are for the present time.
Von Bokern told GreeneCountyNewsOnline that the new contract will be agreed upon in a “meet and confer” setting. “It’s so new… we’ll see how it plays out.”
She said the county will gather data from comparable counties on their wages, work activities, and the job market and competition for employees. That data will be the basis of wage increases.
Public employers will have more flexibility, but Von Bokern doesn’t see changes coming that would be bad for employees. “Over the years I’ve seen a shift in what counties are asking me about. They’re more HR-related. I see people wanting to do things right,” she said.
“Counties value their employees whether there’s a union or not,” Von Bokern said.