Unions agree to forgo raises amid county budget crunch
September 30, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 4 p.m. Sept. 30, 2010
King County Executive Dow Constantine and unions announced a tentative plan Thursday for almost 5,000 county employees to forgo raises next year.
The announcement came days after Constantine proposed deep service cuts and layoffs to bridge a $60 million budget gap. The decision to eschew the cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, could save the county about $8 million next year.
County Council members Julia Patterson, Larry Gossett and Issaquah-area representatives Kathy Lambert and Reagan Dunn — the Budget Leadership Team — praised the announcement in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
“Today’s announcement is a realization of just what is at stake. Jobs are going to be lost, services to the people of King County are going to be reduced,” the statement read. “The willingness of these employees to sacrifice wages that the county agreed to pay them is to be applauded and is something we hope other county bargaining units will emulate.”
The unions representing 4,700 employees reached the tentative agreement. The decision must be ratified by union members.
The announcement could also affect the November ballot measure to increase the county sales tax rate. Supporters said the sales tax rate should be passed to prevent cuts to the court system and the King County Sheriff’s Office.
“County employees are the ‘face’ we present to the public, and the agreement covers a wide range of services and agencies,” the statement continued. “Some of units that are part of this agreement are security screeners in the county courthouse and dental nurses in our public health clinics. They’re in daily contact with the taxpayers who pay their salaries, taxpayers who are also making sacrifices in this difficult economy.”
Constantine announced a similar agreement last month with unions representing about 500 county employees.