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Posted on Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 9 a.m.

Washtenaw County workers union gives up raise to save jobs

By Ryan J. Stanton

Washtenaw County Administrator Bob Guenzel announced Wednesday night that the county's largest union has agreed to make significant concessions over the next two years to help confront major budget shortfalls.

Also at Wednesday's Ways and Means Committee meeting, commissioners agreed to restore planned cuts to human services agencies and will instead make capital expense reductions.

The membership of AFSCME Local 2733 on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an agreement to not take a previously agreed upon 3 percent raise in 2010 and to forgo a salary adjustment in 2011.


Washtenaw County Administrator Bob Guenzel announced that AFSCME Local 2733 has agreed to cancel across-the-board-salary increases for 2010 and forgo a pay increase in 2011 to save jobs.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The union also agreed to take eight "bank days" both of those years, which are similar to furlough days, Guenzel said.

"I want to give a special pat on the back to our labor partners," Guenzel said at the county board meeting. "They really came through and, remember, they didn't have to sit down to the table with us at all. They stepped up and, in my mind, really put the county first and put services first."

Guenzel said he's been doing labor relations his entire career and has never seen a union give up a 3 percent raise that was promised under contract. He said the move will save 125 to 150 county jobs and millions of dollars in the county's budget.

"It's a very significant thing," he said. "I'm just very proud of the organization and the union partners."

Guenzel said five bargaining units under AFSCME Local 2733 agreed to the concessions, and six other bargaining units also agreed to similar terms.

Diane Heidt, the county's labor relations director, said the savings through the agreement with Local 2733 total $5.2 million over the next two years. That's within the range county staff had targeted to balance the budget. 

The county already worked out $2.3 million in savings through dealings with its nonunion employees.

Heidt said county leaders are still negotiating with six bargaining units, including the AFSCME supervisors union, two Teamsters unions, and the sheriff's deputies and command officers unions.

Guenzel said he would have more to report on negotiations with those unions at the county board's Oct. 21 meeting. At this point, he said, it appears the county will be able to have a balanced budget for 2010-11.

County officials have been working to address a $30 million structural budget deficit, which recently led Guenzel to propose major cuts to county allocations for outside human services organizations.

Commissioner Jeff Irwin, at the Ways and Means Committee meeting, proposed a resolution to lessen the cuts to human services agencies.

Commissioners voted 10-0 on Irwin's resolution to amend the county administrator's recommended 2010-11 budget and restore $442,750 in human services funding that was proposed to be cut. In exchange, the board proposes $450,000 in capital expense reductions.

"The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners realizes that as county revenue shrinks in a flagging economy, so do the needs of our residents increase," reads Irwin's resolution. "Collaboration between Washtenaw County government and our community partners delivers the highest value of services to our citizens at the lowest cost."

Commissioners said the county's investment in nonprofit human service providers has leveraged the county's direct input by attracting additional private, state and federal resources.

Irwin's resolution amends the 2010-11 budget by eliminating $150,000 in 2010 and $300,000 in 2011 for capital projects, leaving $150,000 and zero dollars in those lines for 2010 and 2011, respectively.

That restores the 2011 reductions to outside agencies and continues 2010 recommended funding levels through 2011. But despite the move, human services organizations still will see some reductions in funding compared to their 2009 allocations.

Commissioner Ronnie Peterson was not present during the vote on Irwin's resolution.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 3:25 p.m.

Please do not make the unions out to be heros. They only did what they did for the sake of saving the jobs of fellow union members. I would like to see county administration slash the excessive travel of some departments in addition to cutting out stuff like cell phones and blackberries. The county does enough trianing of its own without having to spend excessive amounts of money on sponsoring mini vacations.


Fri, Oct 9, 2009 : 3:48 p.m.

It sounds like the union members have done the right thing and helped solve the budget problem. Congratulations to everybody involved.

Janelle Baranowski

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 10:08 p.m.

It's so refreshing to see our county employees taking a "community" approach to wage negotiations. Keep in mind, our state troopers voted to NOT implement furloughs to save 100 jobs and $1.7 million dollars. Bravo! to our county employees for making the decision to save jobs instead of preserving pay increases.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 9:57 p.m.

Sounds like a good ending for all. Restores my faith in unions. Now if I can only get my city sidewalk fixed. Dunno about the Judge phone thing. Isn't she the same one who spent thousands of tax $ this summer on a junket/vacation, or was that another commish?


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 9:32 p.m.

Problem is that administration is asking workers to cut but the only cut seen from administration is the elimination of one position. Many of theunions have given concessions already in the form of not replacing vacant jobs- doing less with more. The unions in the county are not equal either, from pay rates to structure- it is very hard to do an apples to apples comparison and say that all unions should accept the same concessions when you are not at the same starting point for everyone.

Kristin Judge

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 4:28 p.m.

My personal cell phone is 100% paid for by me. I also was a leader in asking the board to cut our budget, and we did.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 3:37 p.m.

unrulyfan: The union was told there would be cuts to nonprofit funding before voting to take concessions, they were also told if they didn't take concessions that the CSTS program would be cut deep. Sounds like washtenaw county lied to the employees so they could keep their pet projects. Concessions for the empoyees needed to happen, but the nonprofits need to feel the pain also.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 3:28 p.m.

I have a copy of the agreement with AFSCME Local 2733 in front of me. It says the savings from wages total $749,928 in 2010 and $1.72 million in 2011. The savings through banked leave time totals $1.4 million in 2010 and $1.4 million in 2011. Some other terms agreed to: Eliminating temporary employees as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement, retirees and contractual employees performing 2733 work. The county's goal is to minimize job loss for AFSCME Local 2733. The concessions agreed to will preserve union jobs. The county will provide a professional development program to outline services and programs available in Southeast Michigan to assist laid-off workers. The contract is extended through Dec. 31, 2011.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 3:06 p.m.

Unrulyfan... I kind of understand your sentiment. I'm glad the unions made some concessions and those folks won't lose their jobs, but sometimes I think the County is actually run by a handful of nonprofits who lead the Commissioners around by the nose.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 12:08 p.m.

@unrulyfan I don't believe it's accurate to say the unions gave up pay raises to maintain funding for human services organizations. Those nonprofit agencies still will see cuts in 2010, but will not see further cuts in 2011 due to $450,000 in capital expenses that are being put off. The union concessions translate to several millions of dollars in savings which reach far beyond that amount and help bridge the larger budget shortfall in the county that is a result of a declining tax base and other economic factors.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 11:09 a.m.

So let me see if I understand this. The good members of AFSCME Local 2733 have given up pay raises so that the County does not have to reduce the amount of funding that goes to local non-profits? Although I am all for supporting the important work of the non-profits is it really fair to make the union members pay for such public support? Were the union members aware that they were giving up their pay so that the non-profits would not have to make cuts? If they were kudos to them, if they were not I don't really think its okay to rob Peter to pay Paul.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 11:05 a.m.

The County Board of Commissioners have not dug deep enough into their and administrative perks. Do the Road Commissioners need Blackberries? Are the stipends, mileage reimbursements, travel to conferences, to name a few really necessary? Commissioner Judge symbolicly gave up her cell phone, but are they reimbursed for using a personal cell phone? Isn't Commissioner Judge the person who opposed cuts to her "job" a few months ago? This isn't a job, it's public service. County citizens still aren't seeing the self-sacrafice from the Commissioners or the Admintistration. Lead by example, the cell phone is a joke Commissioner Judge.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 10:44 a.m.

Our pay WAS cut via the furlough-esque days (yes, I am a County union employee). Not to mention that we already work 37.5 hour weeks unlike most private sector employees. I think it is a good plan.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 10:31 a.m.

Everywhere else people are taking pay cuts. The local governments cannot afford to keep pay the same, and taxpayers are not keeping their same wages. The only way to make this happen is to cut all government employees pay 5% at least, and increase copays and reduce the extravagant pensions to reasonable levels.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 10:30 a.m.

This is the first plan that I've read that makes sense. Finally somebody gets the picture. The economy is in the mud, people are not buying goods because they don't have money or they are in fear that their jobs will be eliminated. I applaud these guys for taking the initiative to go against the grain and do the most logical solution - cut. The folks in Lansing should take notice.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 10:03 a.m.

Wow! Nice to see unions making concessions for the betterment of the community at large! Maybe some others should follow suit....

David Cahill

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 9:17 a.m.

This is wonderful news!! Good work on everyone's part.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 1:29 a.m.

You know what would help out our budget over the long term. Why don't any public officials consider maybe voluntarily take coach seats instead of first class on a public airline. Maybe even work out the fare for their coach seating to be a tax credit instead of paying for it. Or rather having any politician's district pay the tab. Forfeit the use of any and all freebies given to them. A prime example is as simple as a stamp. Do you know that if the hundreds of thousands of elected officials in this country purchase one a day and send a letter out instead of freebies then that would create $43,000 in one day easily across the nation and thats if not EVERY elected official does ACROSS the whole country. Makes you wonder why none of these financial wizards are arguing that out. I'm sure that the state congressional committe has never thought of that (Makes you wonder why). Another possible way to create revunue is when one police officer pulls over another you know that they're not going to get a ticket. Thats millions of dollars that would be going into the justice system that isn't. So low and behold when the state of michigan has to fire 200 state police officers. Honestly you have yourself to blame (Not solely) but you must come to the realization that letting that local police officer off now has a huge impact. You have to realize that the executive branch of the government for the most part create little to no money for what their daily costs are. An amazing fact is that in michigan alone we'll say 100 officers get pulled over a day for speeding or rolling a stop sign and are let go. I know that town/counties/city fines all vary but let's go with $90.00/ ticket. That's...... $9,000.00/day $63,000/week $270,000/month (Using 30 days per month) And the total for the year $3,276,000 Thats just an example of how a few extra sacrifices can be made and people that are in certain positions should pay what they have to. So this comment goes out to basically every police office and public figure since around the kennedy administration and not just this article. Makes me wonder if the governer will send me into a troubled district claim to work for a dollar a year then negotiate an $11,000/ month contract come on!!!! We as citizens must be forced to hold our public officials to nothing but the highest standards. Why doesn't congress take a pay % cut instead of asking individuals who $45,000/ year to take a 10% cut. When any member of the senate makes nearly three times that. But hey they claim they have our best interest at heart.........

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 10:27 p.m.

The county's labor relations director told me that the way the banked leave time works, the county will receive the same or about the same savings as if they were furlough days. The difference between the two is, for banked leave time, you're spreading the savings over 26 two-week pay periods for the year, versus a day in February, a day in July, etc. But the employees still have eight days off.