2011-09-15 / Letters

Union Official Pleads Probation Workers’ Case

To The Editor:

Fulton County’s probation officers and domestic relation officers are quietly working in our community every day and every night. They keep our schools and neighborhoods safe. Their jobs put them in dangerous and stressful situations working with troubled people in our community. These employees enforce child support orders, keep at-risk youths in school, supervise convicts on probation and monitor sex offenders in our community. Their job is part police officer, part counselor, part substitute parent and part advocate. Most people in their lifetime will never have any contact with these public servants. But you can’t afford to lose the services of these dedicated public servants. They do not get, and are not asking for accolades. All they want is fairness on the job and respect that everyone deserves at work.

These public servants formed a union several years ago because the county did not give them the respect they deserved and the respect that other empoyees in the county were getting. These public servants are heading into contract negotiations for a second collective bargaining agreement with the county. These public servants are asking for your public support.

These employees understand the problems faced by the county government in this tough economy. But the county commissioners need to understand as well that they should not solve the problems of the county on the backs of these public servants by abusing them.

On August 23, the county’s business manager came to contract negotiations and proposed a three-year pay freeze for those employees along with increases to these employees’ current healthcare costs. This would be a wage cut for people who are already underpaid given their experience and educational credentials. The business manager also proposed a decrease to these employee’s on-call pay. The business manager has proposed a three-year wage freeze, but at the same time the county has money to spend on an outside attorney fighting these valuable public servants who protect our community. This is irresponsible use of taxpayer monies.

Accordingly, the business manager is forcing the county to spend even more taxpayer money by going to an interest arbitration hearing. This action will cost the county taxpayers even more taxpayer money. This is money that should be used to support these valuable public servants for the job that they do.

As you may recall, the Fulton County commissioners spent approximately $130,000 of taxpayer money fighting the probation and domestic relations officers during the first collective bargaining contract negotiations.

The real question here is how much more taxpayer money will the county commissioners spend fighting the people who protect our community? Once again, during the last contract negoations the county commissioners spent approximately $130,000 fighting the union and these county employee. This $130,000 would pay for far more wages and benefits than these public servants are even asking for at the bargaining table.

It should be clear to the voters in Fulton County: The commissioners can find money for everything except giving rank and file employees modest raises. Look at the money being spent on new buildings and on the excessive, top-heavy county administration.

These employees are asking for your public support now and when you go to the voting booth in November. Think about what the county would be like without these employees in their respective positions. Parolees would be unmonitored, domestic abusers would go unchecked and child support orders would not be enforced? Do you want to give deadbeat parents, drunk drivers, sexual predators and violent criminals a free pass in this community? Without these employees, our schools would not be safe and our community at risk. These employees quietly and proudly do that difficult work for the community, but the county’s actions will stop them from doing that. The long-term effects on the community in which we live would be devastating.

Recently a longtime Fulton County resident said, “The commissioners need to be using taxpayer money to help protect our safety, they should not be fighting the people who protect our community. They should be working with these employees.”

These employees are not just standing up for themselves. They are standing up so that Fulton County is a safer and better place to live. These employees are trying to make sure that Fulton County keeps the experienced probation and domestic relation officers that the county needs to keep our community safe. That becomes impossible if county leadership can’t agree to treat them fairly.

It is time to tell the commissioners to treat these employees fairly and to negotiate a good contract. These employees thank you for your support. Remember, you have these employees support every day in the community.

The eight employees working for the county’s court system are seeking small raises – less than $1 per hour, and yet the county is forcing the employees to go to a very costly arbitration over wages and other issues. The arbitration process is also very costly to the county. It is time to tell the commissioners to make a fair deal.

The commissioners and the business manager might tell you that they can’t afford the employees’ wages, but the fact is our community can’t afford not to pay these public servants enough to keep them doing their job here in Fulton County.

Tom W. Krause General Teamsters And Allied Workers

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