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Council OKs union contract

Two year deal

After several months of negotiations, the city of White Salmon and its unionized employees have agreed on a new contract.

The new contract will take effect as of Jan. 1, 2009, and continue in force through Dec. 31, 2010.

With a 3-2 vote, members of the White Salmon City Council approved the "collectively bargained agreement" between the city and Union Local No. 1533 of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees on Dec. 17.

The contract covers 15 employees of the city of White Salmon, including City Hall workers, police officers, and the Public Works Department crew.

The resolution passed by the City Council pointed out that the members of Local 1533 voted in favor of the proposed collective bargaining agreement, and the City Council "determined that it is in the best interest of the city of White Salmon to settle collective bargaining in accordance with the terms and conditions of the ... agreement."

City Council member Leana Johnson made the motion to approve the agreement with the city's unionized employees, and her motion was supported by councilors Brad Roberts and Bob Landgren.

Council members Mark Peppel and Richard Marx voted against the contract.

Mayor David Poucher said he was pleased with the agreement.

"I'm glad it's done," he said on Monday. "Not everybody gets everything they want."

Poucher noted that the city's 15 union workers made some major concessions during negotiations.

"Employees will now pay for a portion of their dependent health care. Before we [city of White Salmon] were paying 100 percent of it," Poucher explained.

The City Council members who voted against the contract said they believed the deal would cost too much for the city.

"It's a golden parachute for all these workers," explained Marx regarding his opposition to the deal. "It was poorly negotiated. The city got nothing, and they will find that out in the end when the city can't afford it."

Peppel pointed out that despite his own affiliation with unions, he felt this deal offered too much to employees, especially during difficult economic times.

"I want to say I've been a union member for 30 years, and whatever happens I'll still be a union member the rest of my life," Peppel said before voting against the contract.

Poucher disagreed that the contract would in any way put the city's financial situation at risk.

"At least for 2009, I think we're in healthy condition," Poucher said.

Johnson, who served on the seven-member negotiating committee that worked out details of the contract, said the deal was fair to both sides.

"I definitely think there was good give and take," Johnson said. "We worked very well together. We were able to reach the best agreement that would be passed by both parties."

City workers also expressed support for the contract and were glad negotiations had been successfully completed.

"All the guys were happy about it," said Ross Lambert, who works for the city's Public Works Department and served on the contract negotiating committee.

Ross added that the length of the deal was in itself a compromise by the employees.

"The city wanted a one-year contract, we wanted three; so we compromised for a two-year deal," Lambert explained.


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