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Lane County Officials, Unions, Continue Talks As Strike Prospect Looms Nearer

Brian Bull

With Lane County workers authorized to strike next week, negotiations continue over a contract dispute between officials and unions.  As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, both sides say they want to avoid a strike.

The two AFSCME unions involved in the dispute could strike beginning October 18th.   AFSCME representative Jim Steiner says they want pay increases of roughly 15 and 20 percent for municipal workers and nurses, respectively…much higher than the 3 percent Lane County has proposed.

“We have got to make sure that folks are not going backwards in their wages and that they’re not end up paying more and more for health insurance when they’re going backwards," Steiner tells KLCC.  

County officials say other unions have agreed to the terms, which includes workers paying $20 to $70 a month towards health insurance premiums. Currently they pay nothing.  Lane County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky says there’s a balance to maintain.

“We respect and value our employees, they provide incredible services to the community.  We want to be able to compensate our employees as well as we can, to recruit and retain the best talent.  We also have to responsibly manage taxpayer resources.” 

Another mediation session is set for Thursday.  If a strike is held, nearly 700 Lane County workers will be involved.

Copyright 2017, KLCC. 

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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