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Posted on Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 2:35 p.m.

Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies agree to concessions in new four-year contract

By Ryan J. Stanton

Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies have agreed to a freeze in pay for the next two years and other concessions expected to save the county nearly $4.43 million over the next four years, county officials said today.

The county's Police Officers Association of Michigan bargaining unit voted Wednesday night to ratify a new four-year labor contract that starts Jan. 1.

Of the 244 members in the union, 201 ballots were cast. About 92 percent voted in favor of the agreement, said union President Harry Valentine.

"I'm glad that it passed because I think it's going to help save jobs," Valentine said. "I think it's going to preserve our quality of life for our employees, yet it's going to help the county with their deficit. When you look around and see all these people laid off, and people facing financial troubles, you have to be thankful … and you have to do your part."

With the county facing a structural deficit estimated at $20 million for the two-year budget cycle for 2012 and 2013, POAM members agreed to forgo a planned 2 percent pay increase for 2011, which is estimated to save $376,606. They also agreed to a pay freeze for 2012 and 1 percent pay increases in each of the last two years of the contract.

County officials said the most significant part of the agreement is the structural impact for all four years. By forgoing wage increases for 2011 and 2012, the savings will compound on an annual basis, resulting in millions of dollars in the long run.

The average deputy’s salary and benefits are $58,381 and $33,774, respectively, according to the county.

Sheriff Jerry Clayton said he's proud his deputies took a leadership role in helping the county address its budget challenges, despite the fact that the county board didn't agree to cut its pay.

"Regardless of that, they still stepped up and made what I think is the appropriate decision," he said. "There's significant leadership there."

County officials said the $375,000 in wages that the contract will save next year alone will go a long way toward closing a projected $1 million county budget deficit for 2011. The impact on the two-year budget for 2012-13 is expected to be about $2.38 million.

POAM members also have agreed to start sharing the cost of their health care premiums starting in 2013, with each employee paying $50 a month — that's expected to save $168,000 a year in both 2013 and 2014. Valentine said it marks the first time the POAM bargaining unit has done premium sharing on its health care package.

"It's a change from how things have been done in the past, but the economy's been changing big time, too," he said. "You have to be happy with what you can preserve."

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Last year, much of the county's labor force — including AFSCME Local 2733, AFSCME Local 3052, Michigan Nurses Association, Assistant Prosecutors Association, Public Defenders Association and nonunion groups — agreed to concessions in both pay and benefits, resulting in a $4.1 million reduction to the general fund for 2010 and 2011.

County officials said the latest union concessions are significant as the POAM makes up about 16 percent of the county’s workforce.

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on a resolution approving the contract at its meeting on Jan. 19.

"The county is extremely pleased about it," said Diane Heidt, the county's human resources and labor relations director. "It is a big dent — the majority of the POAM membership is in the general fund, so the savings we will achieve will go into reducing the general fund deficit."

Heidt said the Command Officers Association of Michigan bargaining unit — which represents lieutenants and sergeants in the sheriff's department — will be asked to vote on similar concessions in January. As for the remainder of the county's 17 total bargaining units, contract negotiations will be ongoing throughout the next calendar year, she said.

The 244 members of the POAM bargaining unit include sheriff's deputies, corrections officers, clerical staff and animal control officers.

Before the vote on the contract, Valentine sent an e-mail to county officials saying the concessions might have been easier to swallow had the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners agreed to also take concessions, but they didn't.

Valentine said it helped that Clayton came to speak to the union members before they voted on the contract, informing them of the economic situation facing the county. Judging by the response from that talk, Valentine said, "I figured it was going to be a large yes."

"It works out good for all of us," he added of the new four-year agreement. "It's what (county administration) wanted. And they gave us a little, and we gave them a little. They gave us the stability of our health care and they gave us the stability of our retirement."


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



Sat, Dec 18, 2010 : 9:28 p.m.

"If so many of you think the Deputies are getting such a [bad] deal, why don't you strap on your Nikes [and find other employment]? Apply [elsewhere] if your cushy [public] sector job is too stressful for you. Why would [you leave] a job that offers more pay when retired than working? I know, it is because you are unwilling to sacrifice your [top 10 percentile compensation] for [commoner's wages]. It is easier to sit back and quote [fear mongering] even when the [taxpayers] are [broke]."


Sat, Dec 18, 2010 : 5:33 p.m.

If so many of you think the Deputies are getting such a sweet deal, why don't you strap on your Nikes go to the academy and become cops? Apply at the county when they are hiring if your cushy private sector office job is too stressful for you. Why wouldn't you try and get a job that offers more pay when retired than working? I know, it is because you are unwilling to sacrifice your weekends, your holidays and your family time for someone else in need. It is easier to sit back quote statistics even when the people in uniform are willing to give some.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

Agreed. Very many professions are potentially stressful; the list is quite long. Stress management skills are affected by many factors, including but not limited to education, attitude, health, and nutrition. It's important potential occupational stress be recognized, and for workers to know help is available. Millions of workers, including police, can be affected.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 3:38 p.m.

And what of the mental health sacrifice made? What price tag do you put on that? Why are so many of our soldiers, even those not in the middle of physical combat, diagnosed with PTSD? NO, I am in no way comparing Washtenaw to a war zone, but it does speak to the real life mental health consequences of dangerous professions, perceived or not. Point being, physical harm is not the only measure of a dangerous profession.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 2:03 p.m.

Thank you for the link leaguebus. While interesting and moving, the link you provided does indeed show that many of the fatalities listed are the result of preventable accidents and medical conditions which could affect many workers in many occupations, indeed, irrespective even of having an occupation. In no way should these facts diminish the importance of these workers; it's important to keep emotions recognized as separate from logic. BLS and OSHA agree; many other occupations show worse safety statistics.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

@aanative There are plenty more places the county can cut a million dollars a year and not affect our safety.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 11:32 a.m. The danger of a job really has nothing to do with how many killed and wounded. Its all about putting people in dangerous situations in which they may be killed or wounded. There is a certain amount of luck not getting hurt in dangerous situations, but more has to do with skill and following correct procedures. These guys deserve their pay and our support.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 11:20 a.m.

Bob and Cash you're missing the point. I can't keep giving what I don't have, regardless of appreciation or the dangers of deputies' jobs or mine.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.

Thank you so much for your sacrifices on and off duty. Now if only the auto unions could follow your example of understanding the times we are in.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 11:47 p.m.

"these guys deserve all that they are paid and more." "These guys deserve every penny. They deserve a raise" In a perfect world, there is enough money for everything. Our world is faced with significant budget problems, the likes of which have not been seen since the 1930's. Most public employees do not comprehend this fact, because they have been living in a fantasy land where they earn in the top 10 percentile of all workers. It seems there will be some reversion to the mean of incomes. The citizens are tapped out, and many are not comfortable paying their civil servants approximately twice the national average wage for their services. They would pay if they could, but they have had wage cuts, 401k cuts, benefit cuts, home value cuts, stock price cuts, etc. And they don't want higher taxes. The concessions offered so far are likely just the beginning. As the recession becomes called a depression, calls for cuts in public expenditures will become widespread.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 11:32 p.m.

"Just for the record, there have been 155 Officers killed in the line of duty this year." Citation? We must be clear to distinguish between "in the line of duty" and simply "at work". Workers in all occupations get heart attacks, slips, falls, assaults by fellow employees, car accidents, careless mistakes, etc., and these are generally unrelated to the occupation. With about 750,000 active peace officers today, 155 is about 1 in 5,000, which is actually on the low side for the population in general. As stated, it's actually not that dangerous of an occupation.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 11:05 p.m.

Smarter then most unions Somewhat? So, all the county has to do it threaten to layoff workers to get concessions. Thats the message that has been sent. This county needs as many cops as possible right now and the first thing they want to do is cut cops. Ridiculous. These guys deserve every penny. They deserve a raise. Just look at Leaguebus' figure. 155 cops killed so far in 2010. How many more were injured? 3 or 4 times as many? Not only are they out there right now in the night and in the cold protecting you and your family but they just saved us 5 million bucks. They will be out there on Christmas and New Years away from their families. How about next time you see a deputy just say thank you.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 10:35 p.m.

Valentine said: "POAM members also have agreed to start sharing the cost of their health care premiums starting in 2013, with each employee paying $50 a month that's expected to save $168,000 a year in both 2013 and 2014. Valentine said it marks the first time the POAM bargaining unit has done premium sharing on its health care package." A pay freeze for two years and then in two plus years they will begin to pay $50 bucks a month toward their healthcare and still have their lifetime pension, what a massive burden they must forego, NOT. Most of us in the private sector pay 5 to 6 times what they will pay in two years for healthcare and we don't have retirement pensions. I for one am not impressed at all. I am on a 5% paycut for the past two years with no pay raise for the past 4 years and I pay over 80 bucks a week for a lousy Blue Cross plan. But I am just a complainer who is mad that those whose salaries and livelehoods I pay have better healthcare and Cadillace pensions. Bully me!!


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 10:22 p.m.

Just for the record, there have been 155 Officers killed in the line of duty this year. I wonder how many accountants were killed at work this year. Like I said before, these guys deserve all that they are paid and more.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 9:41 p.m.

One thing that is often overlooked when we talk about the hazards of a particular profession is the mental trauma or stress put-on the worker. This to me is just as important and worth the pay as compared to other "tree trimmer" type dangers. How many of you have a job where it is your duty to knock on a door and deliver the message that someones husband, father, mom or daughter has just been killed. Can you imagine what it would be like if your job was to deliver that message? After someone dies who is it that responds to a scene to see what has happened? Can you imagine if that was you? What if you were the one responding to an accident and it was you giving CPR or mouth to mouth when the person dies. What sort of mental trauma are you subject to? Point is, even in those times where you are not in any physical danger I can only imagine the mental turmoil our first responders have to cope with. And to add to it, what of the impact it has on their families. I don't do the work but do work in mental health and I can only imagine what these families and individuals sacrifice to keep us safe.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 9:01 p.m.

"....what do you do for a living? How great is the risk that you will be shot at?" Regrettably, this argument does not stand the test of factual statistics. Important as peace officers are, their jobs are not nearly as dangerous as many would suggest. Common, widespread occupations such as those of general contractors, tree trimmers, etc, are much more dangerous; OSHA keeps careful statistics regarding occupational hazards; these records are easy to find.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 8:46 p.m.

Well Mr. Stanton, Regretabbly, the reporters the other day had no answers to some crucial questions, so let's try again. This is important; the numbers quoted by the county seem low. "Ms. Nash, Mr. Pepple - When you state: "The average deputys salary and benefits are $58,381 and $33,774, respectively, according to the county." 'According to the county...' What (or who) is the primary source for that data? How can we verify these numbers? The compensation numbers seem low. Do these numbers reflect grand total compensation? Or just the theoretical 'base' pay, and base benefits? Do these numbers include the cherished overtime premium pay? Do these numbers include all benefits? Do they include the all the various special payment categories such as 'hazard' pay, special service pay, travel pay, etc? Do the numbers include uniform pay? Sidearm pay? Other equipment pay? What was the grand total paid for labor last year, and how many deputies shared that money? That number is average total compensation, and it is likely substantially larger than the values quoted by the county." Thanks for your diligence Mr. Stanton.

David Briegel

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 8 p.m.

I commend the Commissioners for having no increase for 12 years and bringing the per diems under control now that the Republican abuser has been promoted by the infinite wisdom of the voters. I also commend the Sherrif Dept for their sacrifice. Cash, I usually agree with you but I think that service should not be limited to the independently wealthy.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 7:18 p.m.

aanative, So things aren't good for you and you'd like everyone else to share in your misfortune? Bully for you. 'Tis the season.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 7:11 p.m.

@cici, aanative, somewhat concerned, & mike....what do you do for a living? How great is the risk that you will be shot at? Most Police Officers & Sheriffs do not sit at a desk pushing paper. Most are out on the street responding to calls from people in need and not being appreciated. Did you know that one of the most dangerous calls is for domestic violence? Someone calls for help, the suspect is violent, maybe armed and the victim is sympathetic to the suspect and may attack the officer. I have never had to face this situation from my desk.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 5:21 p.m.

If the county is really paying $33,000 in benefits on a $58,000 salary (56%?) they're getting out negotiated bad, the taxpayers are getting screwed, and the union is making out like a bandit. That sounds about right given the way our national and state government is run. As a small business owner it cost me about 33% when I could afford to offer full benefits. Wow, that's 23% difference; I think I just solved their budget problem. Sorry I pointed that out, I guess you'll have to raise my taxes or threaten to not supply us with police and fire protection, maybe take away school lunches, stop bus service, cut off grandmas health care or something else that will force us to pay more instead of the government spending less. How many of you will even get pensions? How many of you can get two pensions? Or actually earn more in retirement that you did when you worked? Yes folks, it is possible thanks to the generosity of our government. These problems are going to become more and more frequent until we get our government in line with the private sector.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 5:16 p.m.

Our Sheriffs officers are in a dangerous business, isn't that worth something? Boy its easy to talk about cutting someone else's pay, but the minute we need protection from some bad guys, see how quickly these guys come to our aid. They deserve every cent they are paid.

Somewhat Concerned

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 5:03 p.m.

Agreed, the sheriffs still have a sweet deal compared to most workers, but at least they're smart enough and have enough solidarity to make some concession rather than see some of their colleagues lose their jobs. That's smarter than a lot of unions have been.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 4:57 p.m.

well bully for you Cash, but I've been on a 10% pay CUT for 2 years and my private sector employer can't give me benefits that even come close to those of most City, County, and area public school employees. Much as we might appreciate the work public sector employees do, they are a part of a community which collectively is deep in a recession. $50 a month premium towards health care is a pittance of the true cost that taxpayers are subsidizing.

Somewhat Concerned

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 4:55 p.m.

Come on commissioners. Step up and give some concessions,too.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 4:43 p.m.

I thank the deputies for their selfless actions. The County Commission needs to step up to the plate and eliminate per diems. I would ask the deputies to e-mail all commissioners and let them know they should be making sacrifces as you have honorably done.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 4:33 p.m.

I think serving as a commissioner should be pro bono work in this economy. Taxpayers are suffering. And $5000 savings is NOT the point! Commissioners should lead by example in my opinion! The point is that workers who put their lives on the line to protect us were willing to sacrifice. Being a deputy sheriff in the county is a full time job and our lives depend on them. Deputies, we will not forget your sacrifice. This taxpayer thanks you very much. When times get better I will be one taxpayer more than willing to help fight for you to make up for the financial loss you took in these tough times!


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 4:27 p.m.

Only $50 towards health care??? Good grief, that's extremely little compared to it's cost to us taxtayers and the more than generous salary and benefits package they receive.

Kristin Judge

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 4:22 p.m.

Our Sheriff and his entire staff are to be commended for their sacrifice and their dedication to the people of Washtenaw County. Their leadership will be rewarded when the board is able to save more jobs while cutting expenses to match declining revenue. Most of our budget is spent on personnel, so deficits will eventually cause job loss if we are not able to curb expenses in other areas. The Commissioners also took a 0% pay raise for 2011 and 2012. We are the only unit that has taken a 0% pay raise for what will total 12 years at the end of 2012. It is important to separate the headlines from the facts. In the 2010 budget, the commissioners cut their budget by 17% and asked the administration to take an even larger cut. We did lead this effort to cut departmental budgets. I believe our staff understands that the commissioners are not overpaid and work hard to save jobs in this difficult time. Our one budget priority for the 2010-2011 budget cycle was to save as many jobs as possible so we did not add to the joblessness problem. The Board of Commissioner's entire budget is less than $600,000/year out of a $100 million budget. If the Board took a 3% pay cut this year, it would have saved the residents approximately $5,000 total. Personally, I would like to keep the pay for commissioners competitive so that anyone can afford to serve, not just independently wealthy people. If people without money could actually run for federal office and win, we may have a United States Congress that worked more for the people.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 3:15 p.m.

It is good to see that the Sheriff's are willing to accept the 0% increases and are participating in helping the county to reduce the deficit. It is unfortunate the Commissioners feel they don't need to participate on an equal or greater level, but perhaps they will get the message in future elections as they are replaced.