Orland Park employees protest contract delay
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org October 15, 2012 11:32PM
Orland Park employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees demonstrate outside Orland Park Village Hall on Monday prior to a village board meeting. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media.
Updated: November 18, 2012 6:35AM
Upset with a delay in reaching a new contract with the village, more than 30 Orland Park employees demonstrated outside of village hall prior to Monday’s village board meeting.
About 70 public works, parks and recreation and police telecommunications employees have been without a contract since May 2011 and have been meeting with a federal mediator since the beginning of this year, according to Jeff Dexter, a representative with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the workers.
Holding signs reading “Stand up for the middle class,” workers stood along Ravinia Avenue and welcomed the supportive honks and waves of passing cars.
“It doesn’t seem like (village officials) are willing to negotiate,” said Frank Zomparelli, a 27-year parks department employee. “They throw stuff on the table and say that’s how it’s going to be.”
A proposal to boost workers’ health insurance costs “is the biggest sticking point” in contract talks, said Tim Lynch, a public works employee and president of AFSCME Local 368, the employees’ union. Under the village’s offer, family insurance coverage would rise from $190 a month to about $470, Dexter said.
He said a strained relationship between the village and the union was recently made worse. After a bargaining session this month, village manager Paul Grimes, Orland Park’s chief negotiator, noted that the proposed health care rates mirror what he pays, Dexter said.
When it was pointed out that Grimes’ salary, about $140,000, puts him in a much better position financially to afford the health insurance, he responded to union negotiators that “We all make life choices. I made mine, you made yours,” Dexter said.
After their street protest, several AFSCME members attended the village board meeting. Dexter, speaking to the board, said the employees are “proud of their life choices” in working for the village, but that “a lot of people can’t shoulder” the higher insurance costs proposed.
Employees “want a fair and just agreement,” he told the mayor and trustees.
Grimes told the village workers that he called Dexter and Lynch after that negotiating session to apologize “if anyone took offense” at his comment, and that the village administration works to “make sure we treat everyone with respect.” Grimes said his remarks were made in the “heat” of contract negotiations.
“We’ve all said things sometime that didn’t come out the way we meant them,” he said.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Grimes denied ever telling union negotiators “I made mine, you made yours,” and said his comments to AFSCME representatives were “misinterpreted.”
Grimes said the village understands employees and their families “have different needs and they each have their own individual economic realities that they must face.” He said the village, in its contract offer, is giving more health care coverage options to Local 368 members “based on employees’ needs, and yet is responsible to our taxpayers.”
Mayor Dan McLaughlin said at Monday’s meeting he was optimistic that the village and the union could come to terms on a new contract.
“I think we will have something settled very soon,” he told the employees.
Along with the AFSCME contract, the village is still trying to reach agreement with Local 159 of the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, which represents 76 village officers. They also have been without a new contract since May 2011.