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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