County Council approves a new contract with its largest employee union

  • By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, September 20, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

EVERETT — A divided Snohomish County Council approved a new contract Monday for the largest union representing county workers.

The agreement passed 3-2, despite controversy over a one-time $460 payment that some county lead

ers called a contract signing bonus.

Others called the payment compensation for rising medical costs. That’s a view shared by some elected officials and members of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Plus, some elected leaders added, the agreement made a step toward curbing taxpayers’ future share of rising employee benefits.

“This agreement offers the opportunity to slow or reduce the growth rate of the county’s medical costs,” Council Chairman Dave Somers said. “In return, we have agreed to a one-time payment to AFSCME employees and that we will work with the union to continue the county’s tradition of offering employees fair medical coverage while addressing the unsustainable growth rate in these costs.”

Somers voted with council members Brian Sullivan and Stephanie Wright for the contract. Councilmen Dave Gossett and John Koster were against it.

The union represents nearly 1,400 of Snohomish County’s approximately 2,500 workers. Multiplied by all employees represented by the union, the $460 payment would total more than $600,000. That’s assuming other county employees with different unions or no union representation don’t get the same offer, which is possible.

In remarks after the vote, Koster worried that the one-time payment could lead to worker layoffs.

“It’s a clump of dough and it’s a big hit on each one of the elected (department heads’) budgets,” he said after the meeting. “My fear is that it could result in further reductions.”

Gossett prefaced some of his remarks by saying that he’s a strong union supporter and that he supported what he felt was a very generous union package.

Under one popular medical plan, county taxpayers in 2010 paid more than 87 percent of employees’ medical costs.

“Many taxpayers in this county would consider that a generous program and far better than the program they receive,” Gossett said.

Gossett also accused County Executive Aaron Reardon of encouraging the union to push for more concessions and for the council to grant more concessions. He also said the executive kept civil attorneys from the prosecutor’s office out of the negotiations.

Gossett also repeated his contention that the $460 payment “is a signing bonus, clear and simple.”

“Since day one I have made it very clear I would not vote for a signing bonus,” he said. “The signing bonus is dressed up as a medical payment of some kind. Yet the fact is that in 2011, employee medical costs will not go up one cent.”

Sullivan, on the other hand, said, “We do need to more forward and get through this contract so we can get on with the business of the county.”

Union employees, as many have pointed out, have made concessions. They’ve had no cost-of-living increase for the past two years and 11 furlough days in 2009 effectively cut salaries by more than 4 percent. Other county workers, excluding those working public safety jobs, have made similar financial sacrifices.

The agreed-to contract includes a 1.35 percent cost-of-living increase effective next spring.

“We came to a deal and we’re glad it’s all put away,” said Chris Dugovich, the union’s state-level president. “We’ve recognized the economic difficulties that everybody’s been encountering and tried to come to a reasonable arrangement on the medical benefits issue for Snohomish County, and we’ve tried to do that across the state.”

Both the employees and the taxpayers are hurting from rising medical costs, which have increased by double digits in each of the past few years, Dugovich said.

The contract under negotiation actually began Jan. 1 of this year and runs through 2012.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465;

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Julie Timm
Sound Transit’s $375K payout to ex-CEO didn’t buy help

Board members said Julie Timm would give professional advice to them or a future CEO after leaving, but she hasn’t been called upon.

FILE -- An engine on a Boeing 767 jet aircraft, at a Boeing facility in Everett, Wash., March 7, 2012. The Boeing 737 engine that failed on Southwest Flight 1380 is not the only one that has caught the eye of regulators: Engines on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 767 have also failed, prompting questions about their design and inspection procedures. (Stuart Isett/The New York Times)
Boeing 767, built in Everett, gets 5-year lifeline from Congress

Boeing would have been forced to end production of the 767 Freighter in 2027 due to new emissions rules if not for the extension.

Snohomish County Jail. (Herald file)
Inmate, 51, dies at Snohomish County Jail

Around 3 p.m., corrections staff called 911 about an inmate, who became unresponsive as firefighters arrived. He died at the scene.

With the Olympic mountains in the background, Boeing's 777x lifts off from Paine Field on its first flight, to Boeing Field in Seattle, on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 in Everett, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
1 dead, dozens injured after turbulence on Boeing plane

A Singapore Airlines flight from London was diverted to Bangkok, where more than 70 people were being treated for injuries.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Idaho man identified in fatal trooper shooting on I-5 near Everett

The deceased man was Marvin Arellano, 31, of Nampa, Idaho, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

State Sen. Mark Mullet, left, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, are both running as Democrats for governor in 2024. (Photos provided)
Did Bob Ferguson go too far responding to fellow Fergusons?

Ferguson wanted the secretary of state to redo the ballot. Mark Mullet, a Democratic rival, says such a move would’ve broken the law.

Photo by Gina Shields of GM Photography
Whidbey Island to salute the fallen for Memorial Day

All are invited to honor those who have fallen at three events on Whidbey Island.

Boeing firefighters and supporters hold an informational picket at Airport Road and Kasch Park Road on Monday, April 29, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Boeing union firefighters to vote on new contract proposal

The company made the offer after “a productive session” of bargaining and reported the amended contract includes an “improved wage growth schedule.”

Catholic Community Services NW Director of Housing Services and Everett Family Center Director Rita Jo Case, right, speaks to a man who asked to remain anonymous, left, during a point-in-time count of people facing homelessness in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Homelessness down nearly 10% in Snohomish County, annual count shows

The county identified 1,161 people without permanent housing, down from 1,285 last year. But lack of resources is still a problem, advocates said.

Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor Craig Matheson on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 in Everett, Washington. Matheson retires this month after 35 years in the prosecutor's office. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
For decades, he prosecuted Snohomish County’s most high-stakes cases

“When you think of a confident prosecutor, you see a picture of Craig (Matheson) in the dictionary.” Or in the thesaurus, flip to “prepared.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.