Curry County’s road department employees want to form a union of their own, although no one is willing to say why — and county officials are left wondering how to go about doing it.
County Administrator Clark Schroeder — in his third day on the job — informed the board of the decision during the commissioner’s meeting Wednesday.
Currently, the sheriff’s department employees and other non-elected officials are represented by the Teamsters and others are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The only ones not represented by a union include elected officials, department heads and some office managers.
Schroeder and County Attorney John Huttl admitted they were unsure how to proceed, but noted they would not be able to present anything in time for a June 20 meeting the employees have requested.
“When you’re starting from scratch, it’s not as easy as cutting and pasting someone else’s contract,” Schroeder said. “Normally, it takes months to do.”
Huttl said he wasn’t sure he could represent them in the creation of a union as it could present a conflict of interest in his job of representing the board.
Schroeder said while he’s participated in union negotiations, he has never helped create a union from scratch. Regardless, Commissioner Court Boice wants Schroeder involved, if for nothing else, than the experience, he said.
Why a union?
Roadmaster Richard Christensen, a department head ineligible to be a union member, said he is not involved in any discussions regarding the proposed union. The employee leading the charge, whom he declined to name, declined to comment.
Some people said the 22 road department employees were “angry their raises were taken away” during budget discussions, but Louise Kallstrom said the two issues aren’t related. The raises were budgeted cost of living increases that didn’t make the final budget, and the budget committee was notified during discussions employees were interested in forming a union.
“It was something that happened before; it wasn’t based on anything happening in the budget,” Kallstrom said. “The budget committee discussed the non-represented employees quite a bit. Department heads put things for them in the budget — wage increases, salary increases, STEP increases — but that did not happen.”
The 2018-19 budget has been approved, but not yet adopted.
As part of budget talks, each department submitted requests for expenses for the upcoming fiscal year, some of whom asked for increases in wages or benefits for their employees, she said.
Of note was a cost of living increase that was initially budgeted but not approved.
Instead, however, the budget does call for non-represented employees to receive an additional $100 a month — for a total of $1,100 — for insurance, Kallstrom said.