News from the Huron Valley Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

The mission of the Huron Valley Central Labor Council is to improve the lives of working families in Washtenaw County and Livingston County– to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our region.

Subject: Multiple Victories at Washtenaw County Commission Last Night

Sisters and brothers,

We’ll discuss this more at our October delegates’ meeting, but I didn’t want to wait till then to let you know that we won a number of victories at the County Commission on Wednesday evening. Here are four concrete gains, none of which was in the cards two weeks ago:

1) Within the next week or two, a community planning process will be launched that will give the county’s two AFSCME unions and the HVCLC seats at the table, along with other stakeholders, as we consider how to respond to the structural problems that will remain after the passage of Wednesday’s FY2016 county mental health services budget.

2) As part of this new process, the County Administrator, in collaboration with labor representatives, will “retain an independent 3rd party contractor to review the finances, revenues and expenditures of CMH and that this contractor will develop a list of actionable recommendations to help Washtenaw County stabilize the future of the county CMH.” [this is the language of the amendment, written by Yousef, that passed last night] We have put forward the name of someone — Steve Fitton — who we believe has the expertise required to do this job properly and he will be interviewed.

3) Nancy, who (in the original budget plan) was to be pushed out of CSTS (the County’s mental health service delivery unit), will stay where she was. This means that Tonya, Nancy’s union’s Recording Secretary, will not be bumped by Nancy. That bump would have cost her her job as a County employee and cost the union one of its top officers.

4) While a one year blanket exemption to the County’s Living Wage Ordinance (LWO) will be granted to the approximately 110 organizations that will be providing mental health services to the County in FY2016, these orgs will not be permanently exempted from the LWO, as originally proposed. Instead, they will have one year to make a case for any further extension, with the maximum exemption being three years as in the current LWO. Only those orgs that apply and are approved will get any further exemption, and they will have to develop a plan to come into compliance by the end of Year 3. We will have access to the budget information necessary to independently access whether we think they have a good case for extended exemption.

We could not have achieved these victories without the hard — and fast and well thought out — work of Nancy, Cheryl, Deb, Wes, Bob, Tad, Ron and the other HVCLC delegates who came to one or both of the last two Wednesday meetings, and met with the County Administration a week ago to present our proposals.

Also critical was the hard work of three Commissioners: Yousef, Andy, and Conan. Ronnie Peterson was also solidly in support in the lead-up to Wednesday’s vote. These Commissioners brought around all but one of the others present last night.

Also critical to these victories were the community orgs that mobilized members and consumers of mental health services to demonstrate to the Commissioners the strong public support that existed for developing a better way forward. Greg Pratt deserves particular credit on that front.

Finally, the County Administrator (Verna) and other Administration decision-makers such as Trish and Felicia (who is both a Commissioner and an Administrator), were genuinely open to the creation of a more inclusive and collaborative process. They were open to it because they are deeply committed to maintaining high quality mental health services to Washtenaw County residents. They came to believe that the participation of organized labor and other stakeholders would help, rather than hinder, their efforts to realize that goal. But that’s not where they started; we had to work hard to get them to see the validity of that conclusion.

So … a lot of people busted their butts to bring about these results and congratulations are due all around! There is a lot more work to be done, but we’ve just taken a big step forward. We’ve sent a signal to other players in this county, who’ve seen this unfold over the last two weeks, that our labor movement is getting better at working together. And we’re using the power that working together generates in constructive ways, to defend what is worth defending and initiate new processes where innovation is required.

We’re making it clear that we have to be included in the decisions that affect the lives of working people in our county. Let’s make that the new normal in Washtenaw County, and then figure out how to extend that norm into the other counties we cover!

In solidarity,

Ian Robinson, President (LEO, AFT-MI Local 6244)

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