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County's blue collar union gets $1,000 incentive to return to bargaining table

WBFO's Mike Desmond

Around 1,500 Erie County workers each will be getting $1,000 before taxes, after a vote Thursday by the County Legislature.

The county's blue collar union covers workers from the sewer system to Erie County Medical Center - around 450 direct county workers. That is important because the money for the checks will come out of the county bank account. However, Erie Community College and ECMC will pay for their workers.

Bargaining for these workers has been very difficult, especially because they rejected one proposed contract - costing approximately $1.5 million. When negotiations deadlocked, Local 1095 came to legislators and eventually they all agreed to the $1,000 payments.

Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo said this will help workers.

"This plan gives the members a $1,000 payment, pro-rated based on hours, to settle 2016 and then hopefully get the union and the administration back to the table, with the administration negotiating in good faith," Lorigo said. "And that's been a problem, I know, from talking with many union members since the very beginning."

Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams pointed out that she is a retired union member and that labor talks need to start again.

Legislature Majority Leader Joe Lorigo was among the lawmakers who approved the $1,000 payment to county union workers.

"Today, we inch forward but we're making sure 2016 is moving a little, inching ahead, but we're putting our union back in line," she said. "They've got to get back in line there. After today, there's two or three other unions ahead of them, so they've got to get back in line at the negotiating table."

County Executive Mark Poloncarz' spokesman pointed out this is an election year and unions are important in elections. Local 1095 President Rich Canazzi said he is happy the legislators went the union's way.

"We get a one-year increment or actually a stipend of $1,000, which will end the impasse negotiations," he said. "By law, it had to be settled here, whether it be for no money or a stipend. It needed to end here and the legislators took our side and I'm very thankful for all that."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.