Jackson County Employee’s Association declares “impasse” in negotiations

MEDFORD, Ore. – Jackson County and their employees’ union are reportedly deadlocked in their latest bargaining agreement.

On January 24, 2020, the Jackson County Employee’s Association (JCEA) and Jackson County reached an impasse during contract negotiations.

The County and the JCEA have already agreed on several items, but they’ve been unable to reach a consensus over wages and health insurance coverage.

The Jackson County employee association says it wants a new contract that would provide better options for healthcare coverage.

The group claims after months of negotiations, the county has refused to offer the same deal as the Public Employee Benefits Board, also known as PEBB.

In a recent survey done by the JCEA, about 77% of members say they want to make the switch to the PEBB deal. The union claims it would save the county more than $900,000.

The county said they’re concerned about the long-term stability of PEBB. If they join into PEBB once, they’ll reportedly be locked in forever. If the system falters or fails, it will be on the backs of union members to pick up the tab, county representatives said.

Under Oregon law, once impasse is declared both parties have seven days to submit their best and final offers for publication, followed by a 30-day cooling-off period. When that ends, the county may implement their final offer and workers could go out on strike.

Melissa Unger, executive director of SEIU Local 503 made the following statement:

The Jackson County Employees Association’s bargaining team declared impasse on Tuesday because they felt that after 6 months at the bargaining table, continuing negotiations would not lead to fair wages and an affordable healthcare plan for employees. It is our hope that a deadline for negotiations will lead to a fair settlement that the hard working employees of Jackson County can live with.

County employees earn wages that are 13% to 28% less than comparable employees in other counties. As a result, the county regularly loses talented people to other jobs. That turnover harms the services everyone in Jackson County relies on.

The county’s current healthcare plan is the major sticking point in negotiations. The current plan is so expensive that many low wage employees can’t afford to use it. Employees have found a deal – the PEBB deal – that would get them a better healthcare plan and save taxpayers money by switching to a larger, statewide healthcare pool operated by the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB). The PEBB deal would save taxpayers nearly $1 million per year and make healthcare more affordable for employees. It’s a win/win, but the county won’t take the deal.

It’s time for Danny Jordan and the county commissioners to listen to their employees and make the fiscally prudent decision to take the PEBB deal.

Declaring impasse kicks off a 30-day cooling off period, during which negotiations can continue. At the end of the cooling off period, management can implement their best and final offer, and employees can choose to go on strike if they don’t accept the final offer. We hope that the impending deadline will lead to a resolution at the bargaining table that includes fair wages and affordable healthcare for county employees.

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