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State employee union decries deal that gives raises to all state managers

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rank-and-file state employees have been slapped in the face with the news that Gov. Ted Kulongoski has issued top-heavy pay raises for all state managers.

With 33 years of collective bargaining experience — 16 of those years at various state “central table” negotiations — I thought I’d heard and seen everything. But we are outraged at this proposed package for state managers. After months of face-to-face bargaining with the state, we feel like we’ve been lied to.

Some quick background: We, AFSCME, are the second-largest union of state employees, and we represent several state agencies with unique jobs that are difficult to fill. We represent a variety of scientists and others with advanced degrees at DEQ, DLCD, the State Lands Division and more. We represent correctional officers and others who work inside prison walls. In the last 15 years these workers averaged a raise only about every other year.

In late August, after months of negotiating for our members, we signed off on a deal that the state said was the absolute maximum it could afford. We spent weeks comparing data from other states and some Oregon counties and with a special eye on classifications where we know the state has special recruitment and retention problems. But the Deparatment of Administrative Services balks at using data from cities and other local governments as comparators, especially the cities of Portland and Salem that absolutely compete with the state for employees. Yet DAS is happy to turn right around and use such cities as comparators for justifying management raises.

This management package is more than triple what our agreement was, and the state has unilaterally given this across-the-board increase to every manager. Every state agency will now have to eat the costs of these raises, meaning our members could face layoffs or increased workloads.

This move is shortsighted because it portends a bad future for the state in upcoming negotiations. How can we trust DAS when it tells us “this is all we can afford” in the future? Why would we ever settle again before we find out what managers are giving themselves? Our trust has been violated and we will not forget it.

Ken Allen
Executive director
Oregon AFSCME Council 75

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