County workers argue against pay, benefit cuts

December 6, 2011 6:44:08 PM PST
In Contra Costa County, thousands of public employees are fighting for their livelihoods. They are desperately worried about a plan that would take a bite out of their pay and benefits. Tuesday, they let county officials know it.

Despite often emotional pleas from the county's lowest paid workers, Contra Costa supervisors may impose a new contract on them with significant pay and benefit reductions.

"I live paycheck to paycheck," county worker Cara Moffett said. "I ask that you not impose on us. I thought the war was in the Middle East, not here in Contra Costa County."

"People have done the math and will lose an average $400 to $600 per month. This is huge, cuts of approximately 8 to 10 percent," said one woman in addressing officials.

Under the proposal, 4,700 social workers, librarians, janitors, clerks and others will make 3.2 percent less.

"If there is any kind of pay cut, I will lose my home, we will have no medical and we will go into a shelter," said another speaker.

Top management, including County Administrator David Twa, have already taken a pay cut, but Twa still makes more than $243,000 per year. Supervisors also have had their salaries cut to about $94,000 per year.

"We've stepped up, management has stepped up, and unfortunately the cuts we're seeking for now have long-term benefits to the county's infrastructure and economic health," county supervisor Mary Piepho said.

Besides the wage decreases, the proposed contract requires workers pay an increased portion of their pension and health care benefits, which some say is the worst part of the deal.

"We simply think we and our loved ones deserve adequate health care, too," county worker Allen Cohen said. "We don't want county employees having to decided between an emergency room visit and paying their rent."

"I guess we can be proud that soon we will be the county where the workers and assistance clients will be one and the same," county worker Roylen Stack said.

The sheriff's union also took a pay cut, about 2.75 percent, but in their case the county agreed to pick up most of the cost of any increased health care premiums. So far there has been no similar offer for these unions.


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