As chief negotiator and business agent for employees of Otter Tail County Human Services represented by Teamsters Local 320, I am appalled at the utter disrespect we have encountered during our bargaining sessions with the county.
The two human services units in question are made up of predominantly female workers who strive every day to provide a safety net for the citizens of Otter Tail County.
They are the ones who answer the phone when a citizen is in need of assistance and/or must report abuse or neglect of our children, our elderly, or our mentally ill. These are the hardest phone calls a person can take, and the toughest situations to investigate.
The deadlock we now face is the result of discriminatory practices towards the human services employees in relation to other Otter Tail County employees and county commissioners.
Human services, in addition to facilities maintenance and non-union employees, received in 2010 a wage freeze along with a freeze in employer contributions towards health insurance ($925), while other employees received a 3 percent wage increase and an increase of $25 on employer contributions towards health insurance ($950).
At the October 4, 2011 Otter Tail County Board meeting, commissioners passed a motion to give themselves and non-union employees another $25 increase, totaling $1,000 towards their health insurance, stating: This equalizes the benefits contribution with all other employee groups.
After the meeting, the human services bargaining units met with the county in negotiations and mediation, requesting the same $25 contribution toward health insurance, only to have the county reject the union's proposal, stating that the union can negotiate this benefit in 2013.
This is the second year that the county has chosen to give human services less on health insurance.
All we want is for human services employees to get the same treatment as the other Otter Tail County employees. If it's good enough for the commissioners, then, I must ask, why isn't it good enough for human services employees? We don't ask for much, but we do expect fairness from our commissioners.