Herkimer County Unit reaches contract; planning outreach effort


Herkimer County Unit reaches contract; planning outreach effort

HERKIMER — Herkimer County Unit President JoAnne LeClair, who has worked for the county for 40 years, said workers haven’t seen a major wage increase in decades.

Historically, the county has been conservative when it comes to raises for its employees.

But unit members recently voted overwhelmingly to approve a three-year contract that includes significant base pay raises over the length of the contract.

“We would always rather get a raise on current pay that would include longevities, but they just won’t seem to budge on that,” LeClair said.

While the base pay raises don’t proportionally reward longer-tenured employees, LeClair knew even this kind of raise was rare for county employees. The unit was also able to increase longevity payments.

“It’s a tough line to walk to balance it, but we knew we had to get something done for our people,” LeClair said.

Due to COVID-19, the contract vote was held digitally using ElectionBuddy and the vote was overwhelmingly positive.

“To see [an]increase was a huge positive for people because everyone is hurting,” LeClair said. “I think we’re one of the lowest-paid counties in the state as far as our titles, so that [raise]was a big deal to people. Plus, we didn’t lose anything [in the agreement].”

Not only was the vote an overwhelming ‘yes,’ the number of members who voted was also overwhelmingly high.

“The employees loved [ElectionBuddy] so much that they want to use it for votes going forward,” LeClair said. “It was a much bigger turnout than when people have to show up to the office to cast a ballot.”

Non-member outreach campaign

Following the successful ratification of the new contract, LeClair, other unit officers and unit Membership Committee Chair Kathy DeAngelis are hoping to use that momentum to engage with non-members who are covered under the contract.

Like many locals and units, some employees hired during the COVID-19 pandemic were hard to reach and fell through the cracks. Working with CSEA staff, LeClair hopes to get them signed up for CSEA membership so they can take advantage of the countless benefits of being a union member.

To begin, LeClair drafted a letter to send to non-members explaining the positive contract negotiations and the benefits of membership.

“Her letter described the various member-only insurance plans, the disability insurance we don’t get as employees, how we do scholarships and just the feeling of solidarity and that we do things together,” DeAngelis said.

DeAngelis added that they’ve already had several people get back to them interested about joining from the letter alone.

“I think it does matter to really address brand-new people and bring them in and [mentor]them, so you know that when you walk away or retire, the union is in good hands,” LeClair said.

— Nicholas Newcomb


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