Sullivan employees want same healthcare, raise

MONTICELLO, NY — Singing to the tune of “You Are my Sunshine,” many of those attending a rally at the government center in Monticello on April 12 sang, “Please don’t take my healthcare away.”

Healthcare is one of the big concerns of some of the employees of Sullivan County. At the rally, Jerry Ebert, a business agent for Teamsters Local 445, wielded a guitar and some punchy rhetoric. Speaking for county employees he said, “We’re the ones who take your 911 calls, who take care of your Department of Motor Vehicles business, who provide child protective services, who staff the Adult Care Center.

“And we are paid on average $10,000 per year less than surrounding towns, villages, counties, correctional facilities and the school districts. [In] most towns and villages a clerk is going to make $35,000 or so; our clerks make $23,000 a year. We have employees, when they’re hired by Sullivan County, their pay is so low they’re eligible for food stamps. People going home with $325 a week in their paycheck—that is not enough money to live on.”

A fact sheet from the county, on the other hand, says that the average annual pay for employees in this unit is $37,340, and the average salary of Sullivan County residents is $27,068. Still, legislators agree that the salary of some employees is too low, and the legislature has committed to raising everyone to at least $15 per hour by the end of 2019.

Ebert continued, and said that the employees in this unit have been pushed aside for years. Now he said, with more revenue coming into county coffers from the casino, “Whatever extra money comes in, do not spend it on anything but us. For once let us be the priority.”

A statement from county manager Josh Potosek says, at the current time, “We are not in a financial position to grant the union’s demands, as we do not know to what degree the casino and other new development and investment countywide will result in increased revenue.”

Ebert said the county’s offer so far is, “If we agree to a lesser medical plan, they’ll give us a $750 raise. Now, we cannot do that for several reasons. First of all, we have members that are not in good health, they have diabetes, some are dealing with cancer, if we go to that lesser medical plan their deductibles are going to skyrocket… The other thing is… that’s the one good thing we have, a decent medical plan,” and they refuse to let that go.

The county fact sheet says in 2018 Sullivan County is paying $12,180 per employee for an individual health plan and $27,168 for a family health plan. It says the amount that county residents contribute to their healthcare plans is “wildly out of step” with what most people in the private sector contribute to their health care plans, which can be as high as 50%.

 

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