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St. Croix County approves union contracts

St. Croix County and union employees have a contract for the next 18 months following a special board of supervisors' meeting Thursday afternoon (June 23).

The board passed three resolutions involving bargaining agreements with AFSCME Local 2721 at the nursing home, Local 576 for the highway department and local 278 covering workers in the government center and health and human services department.

A fourth resolution setting the employee's contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System also was approved during the meeting that convened at 4 p.m. and concluded shortly after 5 p.m.

A quorum of 16 of 19 supervisors was on hand. Vice-chair Esther Wentz and supervisors William Peavey and Robert Shearer were absent. James Stauffer arrived at 4:07 p.m.

Board chair Daryl Standafer said the existing labor agreements expired last year and two months ago he joined supervisors Steve Hermsen and Roger Larson in an ad hoc negotiating committee that hammered out an agreement after a two-month impasse.

"An agreement approved by the membership is in front of the board for resolution," he said.

The bargaining agreements came out of the administration committee on a 4-2 vote in favor of approval. Lorin Sather and Sharon Norton-Bauman voted against it in committee.

Katie Thurmes, the union representative for 165 employees in Local 278, urged the board to approve the agreements. "All employees ratified the agreements with nothing to gain and a lot to lose. I ask for a vote in favor to ratify (the contracts) so we can move forward," she said.

Earlier, Thurmes said the contracts came in close to Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill (Act 10) that was scheduled to go into effect June 30.

The unions have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2010. The new agreements are in effect until December 2012.

"It showed a spirit of cooperation," said Highway Commissioner Tim Ramberg. "It gives us a year and one half to get our 'act' tougher and see how things work out."

"All the bargains were essentially the same, the nursing home goes farther," said Standafer.

"The agreement freezes the current pay plan to 2012," said Human Resources Administrator Tammy Funk.

The nursing home agreement passed on an 11-5 vote. Stauffer, Sather, Norton-Bauman, Buck Malick and Linda Luckey voted against.

The highway department contract passed on a 12-4 vote. Staffer, Sather, Norton-Bauman and Luckey voted no.

The government center and HHS contract was approved by a 10-6 margin. Robert Shank, Stauffer, Norton-Bauman, Malick and Luckey voted against.

The final resolution for implementing employee retirement contributions of 5.8 percent to the retirement fund passed on a 15-1 vote. Joe Hurtgen was the lone dissenting vote.