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Fayette County workers OK 3-year contract

| Thursday, April 17, 2003

Most of Fayette County government's largest union approved a new three-year pact Wednesday calling for raises totaling 15 percent over three years.

The offer approved by 83 of the 147 members is the same offer they rejected last month.

"It just wasn't worth having a strike over 10 cents (an hour)," said Joan Tracy, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 668, Fayette courthouse chapter.

At a last-ditch Monday bargaining session, the county refused to improve its offer, estimated to cost $126,000 in wages in the first year.

Another 23 employees from clerk of courts, prothonotary and other court-related offices will enter binding arbitration after voting the offer down.

Since rejecting the same offer on March 28, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board divided the unit into those who could strike, and court-appointed and court-related offices that could be court ordered to work.

Those able to strike and court-appointed employees voted for the proposal 56-27. The court-related offices voted down the pact 15-8.

County commissioner Sean Cavanagh said holding the line at 15 percent was important because other unions have negotiations coming up.

"This was a trend-setter," he said.

Commissioner Vincent Vicites, however, while he was glad there would be no strike, said he thought the workers deserved the extra percent they were asking for.

Tracy said a strike likely would have got the union to its goal of 16 percent total in raises, but at a cost.

"There would have been many people who would be hurt by (a strike)," she said.

Another union official said the contract puts these and future county commissioners on notice that the workers are not prepared to continually stomach low wages.

"Three years from now, you better budget for us," said Neal Christopher, secretary of the local.

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