Teamsters union chides Allegheny County over negotiations

Officials deny they're taking 'a hard line'

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The union that represents about 600 Allegheny County employees said the administration is "taking a hard line" and not properly negotiating with it.

County solicitor Andrew Szefi denied the allegation and said it finalized contracts with all of its other unions first.

"We focused on getting contracts done with the units that had more realistic expectations," he said. "The Teamsters' initial contract requests were unique."

Between the first scheduled meeting on Dec. 8 and early March, according to an April 12 letter, the county failed to respond to multiple requests to meet from Teamsters Local No. 249, which represents court employees and Public Works Department drivers.

The local includes about 530 court employees, including minute clerks, tipstaves and secretaries, as well as about 70 drivers.

It was only after the union filed charges with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board that a mediation was held on April 9, the letter said.

"They want us to roll over and play dead is what they want us to do," said Joseph Rossi Jr., president of Local No. 249. "My concern is getting the best possible health care for my employees at the best cost to the county."

When the two sides first met in December, Mr. Rossi said, the county's proposal included an increase in employees' health care deductibles.

That, he said, is unreasonable -- and likely unnecessary.

He said that his members, as well as those in other county unions, could very likely get coverage through its own, self-insured Western Pennsylvania Teamsters & Employers Welfare Fund, which currently covers between 5,000 and 6,000 employees using Highmark's network of providers.

The union has requested demographics from the county, as well as additional data, to try to put together such a proposal for the county to consider.

Mr. Rossi believes that if the county would allow such a switch, it would save at least $200 per employee per month.

"That's a good thing," he said. "It only makes good sense, and I think the taxpayers should be aware of that."

Instead, Mr. Rossi continued, the county seems intent on keeping the current Highmark plan, even though it likely costs more.

"To me, it's a lot of politics and payback and support in elections," he said.

Mr. Szefi said he would not negotiate with the union through the media.

He did say, though, that the information requested by the union is currently being assembled, and that the county would review any proposal brought to it.


Paula Reed Ward: or 412-263-2620.


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