Bay City News
Hundreds of Contra Costa County workers crowded into the Board of Supervisors chambers in Martinez this morning to rally against pay and benefit cuts being considered by the county, and the board decided to continue negotiations for another week.
The county was threatening to impose the changes today over the objections of a coalition of five unions that represent more than 4,400 employees, including clerks, social workers, engineers, custodians, gardeners and medical staff, before deciding to extend the talks.
According to the labor coalition, the county's "last, best and final offer" would have imposed a 3 percent pay cut effective Dec. 1 of this year, and would also have required workers represented by the five unions to pay nearly double what they currently contribute to their pension plans and to cover all health care cost increases.
By 9:30 a.m., a long line of union workers waited their turn to address the board.
Though their job titles varied, many of the workers who spoke expressed the same concerns and frustrations with what they said would amount to a 9 percent pay cut.
Martinez resident Tiffany Morgenstern, a county worker for 21 years, told the board she is "shocked and ashamed at this board's disparate treatment" of its lowest-paid workers.
"I request that the board work with the coalition to craft a contract that is considerate and compassionate ... do the right thing," she said, drawing applause.
Another point of contention is that workers say the county is offering to pay a greater share of health care cost increases for Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies, who ratified a two-year contract with the county last week. The board is considering adopting that agreement today.
According to the coalition's statement, health care cost increases will mean more than $100 out of pocket for most employees with family health care coverage.
For longtime county workers like 53-year-old Linda Brown, who said she is on the verge of losing her Pittsburg home, the additional expense is an especially heavy burden to bear.
County spokeswoman Betsy Burkhart said recently that the proposed pay and benefit cuts are necessary because of drastically declining revenues in recent years.