Lakewood workers make noise for new contract before City Council

Tacoma News TribuneApril 21, 2014 

About 30 Lakewood city employees attended the City Council meeting Monday night wearing bright green T-shirts to show solidarity in their dissatisfaction with prolonged labor negotiations between the city and their labor union.

The group filled the first two rows and offered a loud and lasting applause after the AFSCME Local 1938 representative testified on their behalf. They did the same for two non-city employees who also testified.

"It’s time to give the AFSCME employees the same as other employees have received in other negotiations," Patti Cox told the council during public comment. "A lot of time and money has been spent in negotiations, and I think it's time to give these employees the respect that is due to them."

Cox is the president of the Pierce County Library union and lives in Lakewood. She said she came to Monday's meeting to show support for the group of roughly 100 employees who have been working without a contract since the end of 2012.

AFSCME Local 1938 representative Dylan Carlson noted the city previously reached agreements with its three other labor unions agreeing to cost of living increases, retroactive pay and affordable health insurance that allowed employees to keep existing health plans.

"The employees don't understand why their families’ health is less respected or less valued," Carlson said. "Why is the city willing to respect and reward other groups but not ours?"

The union represents blue- and white-collar employees in a variety of positions at city hall, public works, parks and courts.

Carlson referenced a salary study completed by the city in 2012 that showed 26 jobs were at least 10 percent behind the average wage of comparable employers.

"We ask that we may keep our health plan that is comparable to other unions at the city of Lakewood. We ask that we may receive fair wage increases comparable to other unions at the city of Lakewood, and we ask for a fair, equitable and speedy resolution to these protracted contract negotiations," Carlson said. "We believe the city of Lakewood can afford our modest request."

Mayor Don Anderson responded by explaining that council policy is to listen to public comment but not engage in dialogue.

On Friday, city attorney Heidi Ann Wachter said she was surprised to learn of employee dissatisfaction with the negotiating process. She also said that while the city has some positions that are underpaid compared to their counterparts in the public and private sectors, some other positions are overpaid.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467

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