Union accuses Wayne County of bad-faith bargaining

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

The union for 2,000 Wayne County workers said Wednesday it plans to file an unfair labor practice charge against county Executive Warren Evans over proposed wage and benefit cuts.

Al Garrett, president of Michigan AFSCME Council 25, said the county offered the union a four-year contract proposal that would reduce wages 5 percent, eliminate vision coverage and raise employee contributions to health care insurance.

AFSCME Council 25 accuses the county of "regressive bargaining, bargaining from a fixed position and making proposals that violate the state constitution," Garrett said.

He added that the union plans to file the charge with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission this week.

Garrett spoke during a news conference at the council's headquarters at the corner of West Lafayette Boulevard and Third Street in downtown Detroit. The council represents the lion's share of Wayne County employees.

Lloyd Jackson, a spokesman for Evans, said the executive is asking AFSCME members for similar concessions being sought from other employees as the county tries to close a $70 million annual deficit.

"Wayne County will face a financial emergency unless it takes immediate and effective steps to fix its persistent structural deficit," Jackson said. "Wayne County Executive Evans is willing to consider all options, including those from the county's 11 labor bargaining units, which address both immediate and long-term budget deficits while preserving essential services for residents. The county executive is asking no more of the county's AFSCME employees than he is asking from all the other stakeholders."

The union's announcement came as Evans holds meetings to update residents on efforts to address the county's financial challenges.

Evans held three meetings this month and the last is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Wayne County Community College District's Western Campus, 9555 Haggerty, Belleville.

The meetings include a period where residents can ask Evans questions. Department directors also will be on hand to answer questions, officials said.

Garett said all county union members and supporters are invited to attend the meeting and voice their opposition to the county's plan to shore up its finances.

"We spent the last eight years battling (former Wayne County Executive) Bob Ficano and dealing with his unreasonableness and unwillingness to bargain," Garrett said. "It looks like today we're going to start the same process with the new county executive."

Garrett said county workers have already taken 20 percent wage cuts, furloughs and gone six years without raises.

He said Evans' proposed contracts were "Ficano proposals on steroids."

Since taking office in January, Evans has unveiled a series of initiatives aimed at shrinking the county's $70 million annual deficit, including the consolidation of three departments and a division, announced three weeks ago. Last month, he ordered a countywide spending and hiring freeze.

County labor contracts with 11 unions are up for negotiation this year.

Evans has said the county's deficit stems from a $100 million drop in property tax revenues since 2008 and a county worker pension system that's 45 percent funded.


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