Concessions could cost some public services employees at least $400

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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City public-service employees striking outside of City Hall spoke Monday with The News Messenger about how concessions asked for by the city could affect their paychecks. They are in the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39, the city’s classified unit. The employees work in the parks and facilities, streets, wastewater, solid waste, transit and maintenance shop departments. Phil Dudley, who works in the parks and facilities department, broke down what some of the concessions could cost. “I’ll have to start paying $200 a month for (Cal)CalPERS,” Dudley said. Kaiser medical would cost him $100 a month, he said. “That’s $300 out of my (child’s) college tuition fund,” Dudley said. And no more State Disability Insurance means about $30 more would come out of Dudley’s paycheck every month. Jose Reyes, a city streets department employee, said the concessions would mean he could lose $400 to $500 a month. “That’s a lot of money when you’re living check to check,” said Reyes, who is married and has six children. “I don’t want to be on strike right now. I’m one of the lowest paid guys.” Reyes said he would have to “pick which bill to pay” each month if the city gets the concessions they planned to implement Sept. 13. Most of the employees on strike that The News Messenger spoke with commented that they like their jobs and would rather be at work than on strike. “I love my customers. I miss them so much,” said Laurie Wright, a solid waste employee. “I think it’s an extra important job. People need to get rid of their garbage.” When asked if the strike was worth it even though she was losing pay, Wright said yes. “We’re taking a hit for a short time, but in the long run, it will be more beneficial,” Wright said. “We did not take this decision lightly.” Scott Shrum, a fleet mechanic, said he loves his job. He and his co-workers often work on the city’s police cars, fire engines and garbage trucks. “Financially, every one of us are going to be impacted (by striking),” Shrum said. “It’s about hanging onto what we’ve got.” “Absolutely,” said George Bishop when asked if being on strike was worth it. Bishop, who works in the water department, said he doesn’t like the “unknown amount” he could pay for medical if a cap were placed on how much the city would pay for employee medical costs. “It could be $100 to $600 a month coming out of our checks,” said Bishop, who has three dependants on his medical insurance. Bishop said he enjoys the “independence” his job offers. “I love my job. We take a lot of pride in our job, taking care of drinking water,” Bishop said. “I love helping customers.”