Union to Village: We Are Not Second Class Citizens
Orland Park employees expressed dissatisfaction with higher insurance premiums and a lack of retroactive pay proposed by the village in contract negotiations, now in its 17th month, but also the way the village manager spoke to them at a recent meeting.
Inside the Frederick T. Owens Village Hall Monday night, Orland Park trustees listened to streetscape work scheduled to start on LaGrange Road next year, while outside the hall, Orland Park employees gathered to tell the village what they think of both the tone and content of recent contract negotiations.
“It is clear to us and to rank and file members that this current administrator sees the people that work for the village as second class citizens, and they don’t deserve the same respect that the administrator gets and the other unions get,” said Jeff Dexter, staff representative from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.
About 50 AFSCME Local 368 members, who include public works, parks and 911 dispatchers, and their supporters gathered outside the village hall Monday night, carrying signs that read “Stand Up for the Middle Class,” before heading into the village board meeting to speak before trustees.
The village and Local 368 have been in contract negotiations for 17 months, and headed into mediation earlier in the year when terms could not be agreed upon. Among the sticking points are higher costs for health insurance and any salary increase will not go back to May 2011, which is when Local 368’s last contract ended.
On Oct. 4, representatives from the village and union met for mediation, where both were to present a narrowed list of concerns and resume negotiations, as instructed by the mediator, according to union officials. Local 368 were looking for a contract similar to what the village agreed upon with the Orland Park Police Supervisors Association in September, which does include retroactive pay for the salary increase back to May 2011.
But according to union officials, the village presented the same contract offered at the beginning of the year. Employee costs for the offered PPO “gold” plan would go up from $190 to $460 in later years under the village’s proposed contract, as an example of a disputed contract aspect, Dexter said.
“Inclusive in that proposal was a proposal on health insurance with increases that go up as high as 600 percent,” Dexter said. “When we saw that proposal, we explained that we can’t afford those types of increases.”
According to Dexter and Local 368 President Tim Lynch, Orland Park Village Manager Paul Grimes said in response that he will pay the same rates that are being offered to the union.
“I said ‘we don’t make $140,000 a year,’” Dexter said. “He said ‘we all make life choices. You made yours, I made mine.’”
Grimes said in a release Tuesday that he did not say “You made yours, I made mine,” and that his comment about choices referred to the choices of health care options offered to the union members.
Orland Park Public Information Officer Joe LaMargo said Tuesday that the village’s proposed contract offers more healthcare options than what Local 368 had in the past.
About 30 Local 368 members and supporters each told trustees their names, their jobs and how long they have worked for the village, ending with “I am not a second class citizen,” with a few variations, toward the end of Monday night’s meeting.
On Monday night, Grimes didn’t refute Dexter’s claim of what was said at the Oct. 4 meeting, but pointed out that he apologized after the Oct. 4 meeting to Dexter and Lynch in phone calls if anyone took offense to his comments.
“Someone who worked on a pig farm and in a meat packing plant, I know the last person in this room that’d think any of you are second class citizens would be me,” Grimes said. “Yes, sometimes bargaining gets a little hot. Sometimes things get said and sometimes they are not said the way we wish they were or come out the wrong way. I think we all can admit that we’ve all said things in some point in time that didn’t come out the way we want. But I clarified it.”
Dexter said after Monday night’s meeting that he did not believe Grimes misspoke.
“We want the village to realize that they are not second class citizens, and that their life choices have been worthwhile,” Dexter said. “We want to get back to the table and get a fair agreement consistent with other union agreements.”
Mayor Dan McLaughlin also expressed hope Monday night that an agreement would be reached soon.
“If comments made were taken the wrong way that’s a shame but I don’t think anyone who works here is a second class citizen,” McLaughlin said.
LaMargo said the village couldn’t comment on specifics in the contract negotiations.
Both sides are waiting for an available date with the mediator to meet again.
The village also is in arbitration with the Metropolitan Alliance of Police Chapter 159, and insurance costs are among the sticking points in that dispute.
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