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Eugene workers and city will meet with mediator over contract negotiations

Monica Bielski-Boris
City workers represented by AFCME Council 75 have been without a contract since March 2021.

City of Eugene workers and supporters rallied downtown Monday evening to bring attention to contract negotiations. The roughly 620 workers have been without a contract since last spring.

Negotiations started in March and then broke down in September. AFCME Council 75 representative. Monica Bielski-Boris said the city wants to make it easier to cut hours or lay people off. And that’s not acceptable. She said many union-represented employees have not been able to work from home during the pandemic. They include parks & rec, public works, library staff, custodians, and more.

“I think, AFSCME, we’ve really felt like this is a time where employees should be recognized for that sacrifice, she said. “And instead, we’re confronting more difficult negotiations than we’ve had in prior years.”

Another sticking point is the cost of living increase. Bielski-Boris said it would be 2%for union workers, far below the 5% increase for supervisors and professional staff at the city.

The union and city administrators will go into mediation starting next week.

The City of Eugene sent a statement to KLCC which reads in part:

Throughout the bargaining process the City and AFSCME have exchanged a number of proposals and the City has been responsive to counterproposals and interests heard in bargaining.

One proposal the City put forward reflects changes to current layoff language that would allow for temporary reduction of some hours without causing affected employees to bump employees into or out of other departments, teams, or functional areas and displace other workers. This limitation to bumping was proposed as limited only to temporary short-term furloughs.

The intent of the proposed additional language is to create a way for the City to reduce employee hours on specific teams during emergency circumstances without initiating disruption to multiple teams. Impacted employees would retain full health care benefits. The City continues to encourage AFSCME to provide feedback through the bargaining process about alternatives to workforce reductions.

The City’s current financial proposal as it relates to COLA adjustments includes a 2% COLA in January of 2022, a 2-4% COLA July of 2022, and a 2-4% COLA July of 2023. In addition, many employees could receive a 4.5% market adjustment on January 1, 2022 and for some, an additional market adjustment of 4.5% on July 1, 2022. AFSCME employees could receive up to an 11% pay increase in 2022.

Through the pandemic the City supported AFSCME employees using one-time funds in the following ways:

  • Employee Paid Sick Leave;
  • Emergency Family Medical Leave;
  • Emergency Leave donations both for COVID-19 and wildfire impacted employees;
  • Negative Leave balance options;
  • Without restriction and without usual eligibility requirements, access to all available leave banks (sick, vacation, and compensatory);
  • Voluntary furlough options for employees on a requested and approved basis;
  • Temporary expanded alternative work options;
  • Temporary moratorium of discipline for absences;
  • Temporary COVID-19 required to work onsite stipend;
  • All-City leadership conference-available to all AFSCME employees including shift workers;
  • Work-from-home resources and equipment;
  • Waived co-pays for Teladoc services, providing access to counselors and physicians;
  • Free eMlife virtual live and on-demand mindfulness sessions;
  • Employee Assistance Program for LGBTQIA+ by LGBTQIA+
Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s former News Director. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000. After reporting for the Northwest News Network and KAZU, Rachael returned to KLCC in 2007 as Morning Edition host and a general assignment reporter covering politics, the environment, education, and the arts. She was hired as KLCC News Director in 2018. Rachael departed KLCC in June, 2022.