Commissioners take aim at Chester County’s elderly and disabled, again

To The Editor:

Letters1The Chester County Commissioners have once again demonstrated their disregard for the county’s elderly population and residents with special needs, not to mention county taxpayers.  On Friday, March 15th the Commissioners continued their ongoing and disturbing pattern of taking advantage of the hardworking men and women at the Department of Human Services.

DHS has many departments, which include Aging, Children, Youth and Families, and Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.  The employees of DHS are charged with caring for the most vulnerable among us.  They are there for our families, our friends, our neighbors and us when we need them the most.

Despite the vital services that these individuals provide to taxpayers, the employees of DHS have not received a pay raise since they voluntarily de-certified from SEIU in 2009.  In fact, the only pay increase they have received came in the form of a 1-2% “bonus” given to them in 2011 in exchange for voting “no” to union representation.

Meanwhile, the employees at DHS have watched their unionized counterparts throughout County government receive raises year after year.  For example, union detectives just received a pay increase of 12% over the next four years, while union court workers received a total of 10.5% in raises over the past three years.

In light of this ongoing discrimination, the employees at DHS are once again considering union representation, this time with Teamsters Local 384.  Despite tight budgets, the County has miraculously found the resources to offer these employees a small (2%) salary increase in exchange for a “no” vote on union representation.  In addition, the County is spending tens of thousands in taxpayer dollars to hire anti-union consultants to combat the DHS employees’ attempts to insure fair compensation.  Unfortunately, the exact amount of fees paid to these consultants is unknown at this time because the County Commissioners are dodging the Commonwealth’s “Right to Know” law by hiring these consultants through the law firm of the County Solicitor.

The County Commissioners have clearly demonstrated to them that they will use any means necessary, including outright deception, to avoid doing what all Chester County taxpayers know is the right thing to do.  They have left DHS employees no choice but to stand up for themselves and their families by unionizing.

Chester County is the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania, and among the 15 wealthiest counties in the United States.  They have the resources to insure that everyone in our community is taken care of and dealt with fairly, and that all county residents receive the highest level of service available. However, our elected leaders are not working to insure that we receive the level of services to which we are entitled.  Despite the county’s wealth, Chester County DHS employees are the lowest paid in the 5-county Philadelphia area.

Chester Countians expect our elected officials to be responsible stewards of our tax dollars.  This includes helping our families when they are in crisis, taking care of our elderly, children and the disabled, being accountable to taxpayers, and dealing fairly with county workers.

Our County Commissioners are failing us.  The services provided by the hardworking men and women at DHS are vital to our community and integral to our Chester County values.  The county has left the DHS employees without options.   These are the people who help our families when we need them most.  In order to stand up for their own families, they must unionize. The taxpayers of Chester County need to stand with the DHS employees as they seek to receive fair treatment in the workplace.   We must stand with them when they need us so that we know they will be there when we need them.

Chris O’Donnell
Organizer/Business Agent
Teamsters Local Union 384

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Tags: budgets, Chester County commissioners, Department of Human Services, elderly, SEIU
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27 Responses

  1. Mr. O’Donnel,

    As a former Union Member, as well as the son of of a 52-year member of Local 414 – 37 years spent as the president of same local, I would hope that you would not use the disparaging remark of “Commissioners” when describing and ‘painting’ the Board of Commissioners. I would even suggest that my family’s legacy within the union community is greater than the days you have spent on this earth.

    Shame on you, Mr. O’Donnell! No wonder there are many who dislike unions when their are representatives like you.

    Victor Cozzone

    • Mr. Cozzone,
      I appreciate that you are defending your wife. A number of my coworkers and I spoke with her on the phone during the union drive last year. She was very polite and nice. She even said that she supported us. Unfortunately she did nothing to show it, which leaves me wondering what she will do to support us now. Many of us qualify for the very same services we leverage- and we have for years. I respect you and your family for their years service to the community, but isn’t Mrs. Cozzone’s failure to step-up and support us on this issue more of a threat to your family’s legacy than Mr. O’Donnel comments?
      Scott Biedenkapp
      DCYF; x5542

    • Victor Cozzone:
      I notice your concern is over supposed name-calling and not the treatment of the workers of Chester County. Isn’t that what this is really all about?

  2. ..so Mr. Cozzone, your beef is with the reference to the Commissioners? How typical! Not a single concern about the sacrifice and hard work done by county employees doing life changing work? All you care about is what is said about the Commissioners? You miss the point entirely. This is about taking care of the people who chose to help others instead of themselves. You should be ashamed!

    • You, nor Mr. O’Donnell understand the concept of solidarity. Solidarity isn’t conditional. Nor, by definition, is it selfish.

      My “care” comes through my life, and what I do with it, not through some anonymous attack.

      It is you and the Chester County Democratic Leadership – Michele Vaughn and Adam Thomas – that concern me, as you all exhibit abhorrent behavior for any cause – whether it is for a union or a political party. Lying, misrepresentation and deceit are not the attributes I would want for my organization.

      Again, Solidarity, like principles, is not intermittent, or occasional. By definition, it is not selfish. The same can not be said for Mr. O’Donnel’s letter, and the subsequent reaction by the Democratic Party leadership.

      Reading Mr.Odonnel’s letter, it would be impossible to tell which Commissioner does – or does not – support unions. I, on the other hand, know who completely endorses and supports the hardworking employees of the county, union or not(!), and always will with a heart and mind based upon principles and with integrity.

      Lastly, Mr. Anonymous, having had a mother who suffered with a mental illness, I can tell you that no one in that side of county services gets paid enough. I don’t need you, Mr. O’Donnel or a union or the like’s of a Michele Vaughn or Adam Thomas to tell me what I know from first hand experience.

      My advice to employees? Bring the Commissioners along and let them work with you for a week. You would get a bigger raise, immediately!!!! My advice to democrats in Chester County? Find new leadership, immediately, so that we all have a chance to get two democrats elected to the board of Commissioners!

      • My last comment:

        If I ever need an anonymous poster, like AConcernedCitizen, to be my moral compass, please take me out back and take me out of my misery!

      • Mr. Cozzone,

        I admire your passion and loyalty. In no way do I suggest that it’s not sincere. And imagine my surprise to read that we actually are in violent agreement that the county workers are underpaid and don’t get the respect they are due. My apologies.

        Perhaps you can leverage your podium, resources and ideas (especially the one of taking a commissioner out in the field, and in fact would suggest they also bring along the consultants in charge of the “mandatory meetings”) to help the county workers. It’s not about a union, it’s about being paid a living wage and being given respect. Neither of these items appear forthcoming from the current leadership.

        And forgive me for not using my name because to be frank, I’m scared about the retribution that might come from the leadership. This is one of several jobs I need just to get by, and I cannot afford to lose it. Sad, I know….

        Your move,

        AConcernedCitizen

  3. Chesco employees need a union. The managers do nothing and everything falls on the

  4. Thumbs up Teamsters! These employees need protection, the county does nothing really to help or to benefit them. All they do is give them more and more work to do and feel more overwhelmed on a daily basis. Management on all levels needs revamped. People’s merits should count now who they know.

  5. Hmmmm, why it is that in one of the richest counties that we don’t pay our County workers so they can afford to live in their own County? Wouldn’t think wages of employees affect the service they provide for County residents but why the lowest salary in the SE region for one of the most expensive Counties to live in. I would think a truly invested & genuinely interested employer would adequately compensate those who support the most vulnerable in Chester County so they could continue such meaningful and necessary work.

  6. There has to be a better union for county employees to join other than the Teamsters.

    The union agitator Chris O’Donell and his brothers should not be trusted by the CC employees.

    This is not the only union available for the hardworking, honest employees.

  7. Teamsters have a good reputation. I think they would do well working with them.

  8. Mr. Cozzone,

    I appreciate that you are defending your wife. A number of my colleges and I spoke with her on the phone during the union drive last year. She was very polite and nice. She even said that she supported us. Unfortunately she did nothing to show it, which leaves me wondering what she will do to support us now. Many of us qualify for the very same services we leverage- and we have for years. I respect you and your family for their years service to the community, but isn’t Mrs. Cozzone’s failure to step-up and support us on this issue more of a threat to your family’s legacy than Mr. O’Donnel could ever be?

    Scott Biedenkapp
    DCYF; x5542

  9. It is important to note that all three commissioners voted to hire the firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney. Their attorney, David Hackett, touts among his accomplishments – Assisted two local counties and private employer in opposing unionization campaigns in which the employees rejected union representation. You can read it yourself here: http://www.bipc.com/david-l-hackett/. In addition, they brought in Peter List of Kulture, LLC, who primary responsibility is to thwart union organizing drives. This situation would have fallen under the radar if it had not been brought to light. Thank you, Mr. O’Donnell.

    It seems the county needs new leadership all around because not one of these commissioners is standing up for workers. If Mr. Bidenkapp’s comments are accurate, then the Democratic commissioner is worthless if she isn’t standing up for the county workers and holding these Republicans accountable. Supportive comments are not actions. If she wasn’t there two years ago, then the workers shouldn’t be fooled again.

    If Mr. Cozzone thinks that two Democrats are going to get elected with her leadership, he had better think again because she hasn’t shown any sense of leadership. She just goes along to get along.

  10. Cheers to Scott!

  11. Cheers to Scott and his co-workers!

    My point to all is simple:

    You wouldn’t want your father’s 52 years of hard work (or your own, or any family member) who spent their life fighting for workers rights to be denegrated by the leadership of a political party – namely Adam Thomas and Michele Vaughn – that have no affinity whatsoever to labor. Ask Labor within the democratic party: Labor is minimized, ignored and treated as 3rd-class citizens – except in this instance of politics.

    I would also say that both Scott and Chris would be honored that their children would defend their family’s life-long hard work for a noble cause – the rights of working people. As they both know, there is no ‘time out’ against the constant onslaught. You either “know” what the labor movement is, or you don’t. Trying to undermine and damage another outstanding county employee – in this case, the Commissioner for a one-time political punch is reprehensible.

    The Labor cause deserves better than this deviant behavior that is personified by the Chester County Democratic Committee ‘leaders’.

  12. It appears that Mr. Cozzone is trying to deflect attention away from his wife’s actions like hiring an anti-union law firm and keeping quiet about the hiring of Peter List by referencing his family’s legacy. We don’t care about your family legacy. We do care that we are paid and treated fairly. As the lowest paid workers in the region when we live in the richest county in the state, it is appauling. Your attacks towards workers like Mr. Biedenkapp and organizers like Mr. O’Donnell are also appauling. You should be ashamed of yourself. You are an embarrasment.

  13. I was a Union member for 8 years, Shop Steward, Negotiator for contracts. I can tell you this. Unions are a business, nothing more. Look at what the Union did for West End Fire & Ambulance in Phoenixville. Took less than 5 years to ruin a quality outfit in business since 1920 or so. The Union Organizers’ use fear and intimidation to sell their agenda. All geared towards raising money for the leaders of the Union. There was a time when Unions did the right things and had a positive proactive position helping America’s workers. Those days are gone. Unions need members to fill their coffers. They have little real concern for the workers themselves.

  14. To ” Another Concerned Citizen”:

    Hopefully, they will get rid of you during your probationary period. You don’t deserve to be in a union.

  15. I think Mr. Costello, should do a job each day of the week at the GSC. For example on Monday, he can be a CYF intake caseworker, Tuesday, he can run a meeting for a client needing services in IDD. Wednesday, he can solve issues at the Dept of Aging. On Thursday, he can attend the various trainings/meetings, get his paperwork done , plus answer all the calls he missed or needs to return during the week. He can also meet with his supervisor for over 2 hrs to discuss upcoming events. On Friday, he can do everything at drug and alcohol. After a full week, I think he will have a better understanding of why the county employees deserve better and why they need a union to obtain these things. Good Luck Mr. Costello, and if you need assistance maybe Mr. List could assist you.

  16. Caseworkers are fighting for respect and dignity in the workplace. Something the commisioners do not understand. Read my 2 cents here. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/27/1196403/-Chester-County-PA-hires-wingnut-kook-union-buster-w-taxpayer-money.

  17. I have a problem with those not wanting unions to represent Chester County Government workers. Most Chester County workers can’t afford to live in West Chester. Maybe more importantly lots people take Chester County Government jobs right out of college to get work experience and then leave to work in a different county government sometimes in a different state. It’s a revolving door. This is all in one of the worlds wealthiest counties.

    • Do any of you really think that the the union will just demand something and the commissioners are going to just magically agree? What will we have to give up to get that whole 3% raise? SIck time, vacation, health benefits, holidays, comptime? Nothing is free. If the other departments are having so much trouble with their managment then they need to handle it from within. The rest of us should not be punished for their problems. In my department we openly discuss our trouble spots. If some new rule doesn’t work for us, we have the opportunity to discuss it with the Upper Management. We are able to offer suggestions and are allowed to give input to what works for us. Do you think that once the union is in that we will ever be able to decert them?? NO they are bullies and will hold on to our wallets at all cost. As far as I am concerned my hard work should not go to paying for a salary of 120k a year to Chris O’Donnell. Nor should the monies we earn in our county be given to cover another union that is in trouble somewhere else in the state. We have good jobs and excellent benefits. The greedy folks that ar so full of self pitty need to wake up. If you don’t like your job, leave. BUT leave the rest of us devoted employees alone to do what we do best. Advocate, protect and serve our individuals.

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