Stories indexed with the term ‘labor negotiations’

Special Council Session: March 25

The Ann Arbor city council has called a special session for Monday, March 25, 2013 starting at 6 p.m. in second-floor city council chambers at 301 E. Huron St.

The purpose of the special meeting is considering a resolution to approve a collective bargaining agreement with Local 369 of the International Union of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) AFL-CIO. The agreement would run from March 25, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2017, a bit under five years. The special meeting might also include a closed session to discuss labor negotiation strategy.

The council already had a budget work session scheduled for the same time. So the budget work session will start immediately following the special meeting. The topics of … [Full Story]

Special Labor Mtg. for Ann Arbor Council

The Ann Arbor city clerk’s office has announced a special session of the city council – for Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 starting at 6 p.m., in the usual meeting place in the city council chambers, located on the 2nd Floor of city hall at 301 E. Huron.

The purpose of the special meeting is to hold a closed session to discuss labor negotiations strategy under the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

A budget working session had already been scheduled for the same time. That working session is now scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The council is looking towards the latter part of May, when the fiscal year 2014 budget needs to be finalized.

UM Regents Get Donor, Sustainability Updates

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Sept. 15, 2011): At a meeting where regents awarded UM president Mary Sue Coleman a 2.75% raise – adding $15,678 to her salary of $570,105 – the board also heard from members of the nurses union who are angry over proposed cuts to their benefits.

Michigan Nurses Association banner

Members of the Michigan Nurses Association union held banners during the Sept. 15 regents meeting, showing signatures from their supporters. (Photos by the writer.)

The Michigan Nurses Association, which represents about 4,000 UM nurses, is negotiating a new contract. Members brought large banners with signatures from their supporters, and three people spoke about the issue during public commentary – including Brit Satchwell, head of the Ann Arbor teachers union. The nurses are concerned that weaker benefits will affect patient care by hurting the UM health system’s ability to retain and recruit high-quality nurses.

Ora Pescovitz – UM’s executive vice president for medical affairs – read a statement to the board, asserting her respect for the nurses but saying the health system needs an agreement that’s market- and cost-competitive.

Also during the meeting, regents got an overview of UM’s annual development report for fiscal 2011, which ended June 30. The university received $273.14 million in contributions during the year, up from $254.08 million the previous year – an increase of 7.5%. The previous two years had shown declines from the $342.05 million raised in FY 2008, which marked the end of the multi-year $3.2 billion Michigan Difference fundraising campaign.

As part of that report, a couple who’ve given considerable financial support to UM – Bill and Dee Brehm – spoke to the regents about the motivation for their donations. They provide support for UM’s Brehm Center for Diabetes Research and Brehm Scholars program, among other initiatives.

Regents also heard from students and staff about work toward environmental sustainability on campus and in coursework. More is in the works: On Sept. 27, Coleman is scheduled to make an address to campus, expanding UM’s sustainability goals for both academics and operations. Her remarks will be shown via a webcast, starting at 11 a.m.

A range of action items during the meeting received little discussion and were all passed unanimously. They included several construction-related projects, the creation of two medical school departments, and authorization to buy a parcel at 716 Oakland Ave. in Ann Arbor, between Monroe and Hill streets near the law school campus. This is the fourth Ann Arbor property that UM has purchased within the past year with an apartment building on the lot. [Full Story]

AFSCME Deal Sets Stage for County Budget

Washtenaw County board of commissioners special meeting (Sept. 13, 2011): At a meeting called for the sole purpose of dealing with tentative labor deals, the county board approved new agreements with three unions representing county employees, including its largest employee union, AFSCME Local 2733.

Caryette Fenner

Caryette Fenner, president of AFSCME Local 2733, the labor union representing the largest number of Washtenaw County government employees. (Photo by the writer.)

The deals affect 675 union employees, as well as 271 non-union, court non-union and elected officials – or nearly 70% of the county’s total 1,369 employees.

AFSCME Local 2733 represents about half of the county’s employees – 644 people. The Local 2733 agreement was ratified by a 2-to-1 vote earlier this week, but only 325 members voted. Caryette Fenner, president of Local 2733, described it as a typical turnout.

County administrator Verna McDaniel said these three agreements, coupled with those already approved, will yield $7.7 million in savings over 2012 and 2013. The county has a goal of gaining $8 million in labor concessions for that two-year period, to help overcome an estimated $17.5 million deficit.

McDaniel is expected to present a draft budget to the board at its Sept. 21 meeting.

There was no discussion before the board vote, which occurred after the board emerged from a 30-minute closed session to discuss labor negotiations. Commissioner Dan Smith (R-District 2) cast the lone vote against the agreements.

In a follow-up interview with The Chronicle, Smith cited concerns over health care provisions that would cost the county more than he had been led to expect, based on previous agreements already approved by the board for Michigan Nurses Association Units I and II.

And because of “me too” clauses in other union agreements, the more favorable terms negotiated by AFSCME Local 2733 will likely be applied to other union contracts as well.

In addition to the agreement with five bargaining units of AFSCME Local 2733, Tuesday’s approved agreements were with: (1) the two bargaining units of TPOAM (Technical, Professional and Officeworkers Association of Michigan); and (2) one of two bargaining units of AFSCME Local 3052. Also, the same benefits that AFSCME Local 2733 receives will be extended to the non-union, court non-union and elected officials.

The second bargaining unit of AFSCME Local 3052, representing 55 general supervisors, voted down its agreement this week. Nancy Heine, president of AFSCME Local 3052, told The Chronicle that union leaders would be polling their membership on Wednesday to determine what issues caused members to reject the tentative agreement.

In addition, agreements have not yet been reached with four other bargaining units: Two units with the Assistant Prosecutors Association, representing 24 employees; and two units with the Public Defenders Association, representing 13 employees.

Two other bargaining units – the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) and the Command Officers Association of Michigan (COAM) – earlier this year reached agreements that aren’t part of the $8 million goal. The POAM and COAM deals are for a four-year period through 2014. [Full Story]

County Board OKs 3 Labor Agreements

At a special meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners approved new agreements with three unions representing county employees, including its largest employee union, AFSCME Local 2733. Commissioner Dan Smith (R-District 2) cast the lone vote against the agreements. The deals affect 675 employees, and will help the county reach its goal of gaining $8 million in labor concessions for 2012 and 2013. The county faces an estimated $17.5 million deficit over that two-year period.

In addition to the agreement with five bargaining units of AFSCME Local 2733, agreements were reached with: (1) the two bargaining units of TPOAM (Technical, Professional and Officeworkers Association of Michigan), representing 27 employees; and (2) one of two bargaining units of … [Full Story]

County Board Acts on Labor, Budget Issues

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Sept. 7, 2011): Coming off their pared-back summer schedule, county commissioners faced a heavy agenda at their first meeting in September, with several items related to budget and labor issues.

Andy LaBarre, Rob Turner, Barbara Bergman

At left: Andy LaBarre talks with county commissioners Rob Turner (R-District 1) and Barbara Bergman (D-District 8). Bergman is not planning to run for re-election in 2012, and LaBarre is expected to be a candidate in her district, which is being reconfigured as part of a countywide redistricting set earlier this year and implemented for the 2012 elections. LaBarre, a former aide to U.S. Rep. John Dingell, attended Wednesday's meeting in his role as vice president at the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce, to support the proposed economic development tax.

After an executive session early in the meeting, the board approved a contract with the Michigan Nurses Association-Unit II, representing two county employees. It’s the second of 15 union agreements being negotiated as part of the 2012 and 2013 budget cycle, with the hopes of securing about $8 million in concessions over the two-year period.

Throughout the evening, hallway conversations took place among various county administrators who were involved in labor talks that same night. And later in the meeting, the board voted to set a special meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. to discuss proposed labor agreements. It was expected that additional deals would be announced at that time.

One of those deals was confirmed on Monday, Sept. 12, by county administrator Verna McDaniel. She reported that the county’s largest union – AFSCME Local 2733, representing 644 employees – has ratified a new contract that will coming to the board for approval on Tuesday.

Commissioners dealt with a range of other budget-related items at last week’s meeting. They gave initial approval to budgets for the public health and CSTS (community support & treatment services) departments, which include about a dozen job cuts and a raft of new and increased fees. And two taxes – to support services for indigent veterans, and for economic development and agriculture – received initial approval from the board. Nine people spoke during public commentary and a public hearing on the economic development tax, all urging the board to support it. However, three of the 10 commissioners present voted against it. Final votes on both millages will be taken at the board’s Sept. 21 meeting.

An item that drew the most discussion among commissioners was a resolution to suspend the county’s use of Construction Unity Board (CUB) agreements, pending the outcome of litigation that’s challenging the validity of the state’s Public Act 98. The resolution passed, but with four commissioners dissenting. The dissent came from two differing perspectives, however. Two Republican commissioners – Dan Smith and Alicia Ping – objected to an amendment that affirmed the value of these agreements. Two Democratic commissioners – Kristin Judge and Conan Smith – voted against suspension because they wanted to keep the CUB agreements in place. A final vote on that issue will occur on Sept. 21.

Commissioners dispatched with several other agenda items, giving initial approval to: (1) appoint Jeffrey Jentzen as the new medical examiner; (2) authorize the issuance of $2.7 million in bonds to help pay for a $3.2 million facility operated by the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority; and (3) amend a contract regarding the distribution of the county’s accommodation tax.

Several items were also brought up as communications from commissioners and the administration. Among them, commissioner Rob Turner gave an update on the situation in Sylvan Township, which has been struggling with $12.5 million in bonds issued to build a water and wastewater treatment plant intended to serve future development. It’s expected that the township won’t be able to make its May 2012 bond payment. Township officials are putting a millage proposal on the November 2011 ballot to raise funds to repay the county, which will be asked to cover the future bond payments. Information forums for township residents are planned for later this month and early October. [Full Story]

County AFSCME Union Ratifies Deal

The largest union for Washtenaw County employees, AFSCME Local 2733, has ratified a new contract, according to county administrator Verna McDaniel. AFSCME Local 2733 represents five of the county’s 17 bargaining units. Members ratified their new contract with the county by a 2-to-1 vote.

Local 2733 represents 644 workers. The contract will be presented to the county board of commissioners for approval at a special meeting called for Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. in the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor.

In an email to The Chronicle Monday afternoon, McDaniel praised the employees, noting that they had also made concessions during the previous budget cycle. She said the board will be asked to exempt the county employees who … [Full Story]

City Council OKs AFSCME Accord

Ann Arbor city council special meeting (Aug 29, 2011): In a 5:15 p.m. special session convened specifically for the purpose of ratifying a new agreement with the city’s largest union, the Ann Arbor city council approved a new contract for its American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 369. It’s a roughly 2.5-year deal, lasting through Dec. 31, 2013.

Sept. 1

The city of Ann Arbor held a special meeting on Aug. 29, before its next regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 6. The urgency to hold a special meeting was based on a typo in a legislative staffer's early draft of a subsequently corrected memo, not based on the actual date in the state's new employment health care legislation. (Simulated correction "illustration" by The Ann Arbor Chronicle)

Key features of the agreement with the 230-member union include: no across-the-board pay increases for the duration of the agreement; employees will make greater contributions to their pension and health care plans; a 10-year vesting period for the pension plan; and an access-only style plan for retiree healthcare benefits.

Council deliberations were relatively brief, with remarks focusing on praise for the city and the union’s respective bargain teams and details of the agreement. Almost equal time was given to the manner in which the special meeting was noticed to the public.

Though questions were raised by The Chronicle through the day on Monday about whether the city had met its obligation to provide notice to the public under the Michigan Open Meetings Act, city attorney Stephen Postema relied on a recent unpublished court of appeals opinion, which is not binding on other courts and which included a strong minority dissent, to justify the city’s failure to meet a basic noticing standard set forth in an opinion from Michigan’s attorney general.

That AG’s opinion – which is also not binding on courts, but which has guided the conduct of public bodies in Michigan for over 30 years – requires public bodies to post physical notice of special meetings in a way that makes the notice publicly accessible for the 18 hours preceding the meeting.

The council’s urgency in approving the contract, reflected in the calling of the special session, was based on recently passed state legislation that limits the amount that public employers can contribute to employee health care costs. Ann Arbor’s contract with AFSCME does not conform to the limits set forth in the legislation. So the council was keen to approve the contract before the effective dates stipulated in the legislation, and did so with only seven of its 11 members able to attend the meeting.

The legislation itself specifies Sept. 15, 2011 as the relevant date; however, Ann Arbor city staff appeared to rely not on the legislation, but on an early draft of a memo drawn up by a legislative staff aide to state senator Mark Jansen, which contained a typo. Although the draft was corrected immediately after its limited initial distribution, the original draft’s stipulation of “Sept. 1″ instead of “Sept. 15″ spurred the city of Ann Arbor to convene the special meeting. The council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011 – well before the actual Sept. 15 date in the legislation.  [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Approves AFSCME Contract

At  a special session convened to start at 5:15 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 29, 2011, the Ann Arbor city council approved a new contract with its AFSCME union. The union is the city’s largest, with 280 230 members.

The agreement, which runs through Dec. 31, 2013, includes no across-the-board pay increases for the duration of the agreement. Under the new agreement, employees will make greater contributions to their pension and health care plans. Vesting in the pension plan for new hires will take place after 10 years and have an access-only style plan for retiree healthcare benefits.

The meeting took place despite concerns that it was not properly noticed to the public. The posting at city hall was not made … [Full Story]

Washtenaw Co. Board Gets Budget Update

Washtenaw County board of commissioners budget working session (June 16,2011): At its June 1, 2011 meeting, county commissioners added five new working sessions to their schedule, all focused on the 2012-2013 budget. The first one was held on Thursday.

Verna McDaniel

Verna McDaniel, Washtenaw County administrator, at the June 1, 2011 board of commissioners meeting. At a June 16 working session, McDaniel updated commissioners on the county's progress in developing a budget for 2012-2013. (Photo by the writer.)

County administrator Verna McDaniel updated commissioners on the budget process, including expedited labor negotiations that began formally on June 9. The county has targeted $8 million in concessions from employee compensation and benefits to help address a projected $17.5 million two-year deficit in 2012-2013.

Also in the works are business plans being developed by the managers of each county department – the goal is to get another $8 million in cuts from organizational changes and departmental reductions. Outside agencies – including human services nonprofits – are targeted for $1 million in cuts.

After her presentation, McDaniel fielded questions that covered a range of issues and concerns. She was asked to provide an update on efforts by former county administrator Bob Guenzel and local health care providers to develop a broad-based health care plan for Washtenaw County. She conveyed few details, but noted that the board would be briefed on the plan – called the Washtenaw Health Initiative – at their Sept. 8 working session.

Related to labor issues, commissioner Dan Smith urged the administration to identify potential layoffs as early in the year as possible. Saying that the board was resigned to the fact that there would likely be layoffs – though they hoped to keep them at a minimal level – Smith said it would be better for affected employees to know sooner rather than later, so that they can plan their next moves. [Full Story]

Transitions for Washtenaw County Staff

Over the past two months, more than a half dozen people holding key positions in Washtenaw County government have left or announced plans to leave their jobs, for a variety of reasons. Most notably, the county’s deputy administrator, Bill Reynolds – who’s been on medical leave since April – has turned in his resignation, effective June 17.

Wes Prater, Bill Reynolds

In this Chronicle file photo from May 2010, Bill Reynolds, right, talks with Washtenaw County commissioner Wes Prater. Reynolds was interviewing for the deputy county administrator job – he was hired for that position in June 2010, but has been on medical leave since April. He recently resigned, effective June 17.

Two other departures were announced at the June 1 board of commissioners meeting and June 2 working session: Joanna Bidlack, who has served as support staff for the board for several years; and Anya Dale, with the county’s economic development and energy department, who has been taking the lead in a Washtenaw Avenue corridor improvement project.

Dale has accepted a job at the University of Michigan’s Office of Campus Sustainability. She also serves as a board member of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) – that position is appointed by the city of Ann Arbor’s mayor, and Dale says she plans to remain on the AATA board. Bidlack, who recently completed a master’s degree at Eastern Michigan University, has taken a job at General Electric’s operation in Van Buren Township.

Reynolds, who was hired as the county’s No. 2 administrator a year ago, began paid medical leave in early April, citing post-military issues. [He was hired at a salary of $138,000.] On Tuesday, county administrator Verna McDaniel told The Chronicle that Reynolds turned in his resignation in late May, effective June 17. He has been interviewing for county administrator jobs elsewhere, and had been one of three finalists for the county administrator job in St. Croix County, Wisc. When The Chronicle has pressed for additional details about Reynolds’ leave of absence, county officials have characterized it as a personnel matter and declined further comment.

The staff changes come a year after the May 2010 retirement of county administrator Bob Guenzel, who had worked for the county for 37 years. Now under the leadership of McDaniel – herself a long-time county employee – the county is also addressing a roughly $17 million deficit for 2012 and 2013, and is undertaking some departmental reorganizations in part as a response to declining property tax revenues. The county employs 1,331 people, including elected officials and 1,090 employees who are represented by unions.

In interviews this week with The Chronicle, both McDaniel and Conan Smith – chair of the board of commissioners – said this kind of turnover has been anticipated, in light of the county’s financial situation and the overall economy. There’s an understanding among employees that the workforce will be shrinking, Smith said, and that if someone finds an opportunity elsewhere, they’re taking it.

McDaniel said there is no mass exodus of employees, but acknowledged that there will be additional departures – including retirements – before the end of the year. She’s developing recommendations regarding her administrative team, in light of the recent departures, and plans to update the board at their Thursday, June 16 working session. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Gives Initial OK to Pot Licenses

Ann Arbor city council meeting (March 21, 2011): In its highest profile business of the evening, the council finally gave its initial approval to a licensing plan for medical marijuana businesses.

Susan Pollay, Sandi Smith, Margie Teall

Susan Pollay, left, executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, with councilmembers Sandi Smith (Ward 1) and Margie Teall (Ward 4, sitting) before the start of the March 21 council meeting. Pollay was distributing copies of the downtown street outreach task force report. (Photos by the writer.)

The council has now been formally considering the new licensing ordinance for three months. The ordinance will next come before the council at its Tuesday, April 19 meeting for final approval. Also on April 19, the council will take a final vote on a zoning ordinance that would apply to medical marijuana businesses. The moratorium on use of property in the city for medical marijuana businesses – originally enacted on Aug. 5, 2010 to last for 120 days, but subsequently extended – was extended again at Monday’s meeting through June 30, 2011. [.pdf of medical marijuana licensing ordinance as amended on March 21, 2011]

In a lower-profile but logistically significant move, the council voted to move its second meeting of April from Monday to Tuesday, April 19, because sundown on that Monday marks the start of the week-long Passover celebration in the Jewish tradition.

Other business conducted by the council included: (1) approving a recommendation for non-renewal of a liquor license for the Fifth Quarter; (2) authorizing transfer of $90,000 to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority to improve a public plaza near the Forest Street parking structure; (3) setting a public hearing to establish an industrial development district that could lead to tax abatements for the firm Sakti3; (4) authorizing a letter of support for a Washtenaw County grant application to the state for acquisition of a natural area; and (5) authorizing the city’s own application to the state for grants to support park improvement projects and a new skatepark.

Council deliberations on the park improvement grant applications resulted in the prioritization of a grant to support construction of the skatepark over one to support improvements to the Gallup park canoe livery. The city hopes both grants will be approved by the state.

The council also heard a presentation on a plan for the Millers Creek area, and later in its meeting adopted the plan. It could eventually lead to establishing the creekshed formally as a “drain,” in the sense that the county water resources commissioner (formerly the drain commissioner) uses the term. That designation will increase the area’s eligibility for various funding mechanisms to pay for projects there.

The council heard a presentation from its street outreach task force, summarizing its work over the last six months. That work includes a proposed revision to the city’s panhandling ordinance, which the council will begin considering at its April 4 meeting.

The council also passed a resolution establishing a search committee for a new city administrator. The committee will bring a recommendation to the council at its April 19 meeting on an interim administrator, who will assume responsibilities when current city administrator Roger Fraser departs at the end of April.

The city’s IT director, Dan Rainey, was on hand to receive a Digital Cities award recognizing the city’s efforts to improve services through digital technology. Fraser mentioned during his communications time that the council’s meetings are now being streamed live over the Internet: CTN Channel 16 Live. [Full Story]