Chester County, PA Hires Wingnut Kook Union-Buster with Taxpayer Money

In the rolling hills 30 miles west of the City of Brotherly Love, lies the quaint and historic County of Chester, PA. Normally known for its beautiful horse farms and peaceful neighborhoods, the county boasts a median income of $84,800 with 51% of the residents over the age of 25 having a bachelor degree or higher. Per capita, it is the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania and was recently ranked 24th in the country, according to Forbes magazine. Follow me for the dastardly details of the county commissioner’s efforts to undermine workers’ rights to organize through fear and intimidation, including mandatory meetings with an infamous wingnut kook.

HeartFistWorkers from the Chester County Human Services department have been organizing to form a union and have scheduled an official vote on unionization in less than two weeks. The proposed bargaining unit consists of approximately 160 ‘caseworkers’ from the county’s human services departments. These departments include Aging, Children and Youth, Drug & Alcohol, Mental Health/ IDD and the Youth Center. The caseworkers are charged with working with the most needy and vulnerable of the county’s citizens, in many cases those unable to care for themselves. Despite the wealth all around them, these employees are frustrated by increasing workloads and budget cutbacks. They are constantly being asked to do more with less. They have not received a raise in four years and many feel they can no longer afford to live in the county they serve. They remain the lowest paid in the 5-county Philadelphia area. Read the published open letter from the Teamsters’ organizer, “Commissioners take aim at Chester County’s elderly and disabled, again”.

When I was informed of the mandatory meetings, I started feeling a little sick. I had heard of mandatory meetings before but had never been forced to attend one. Caseworkers were told to pick a time for the meeting that would least impact their caseload. The meetings were held over a few days, 10 employees at a time, scheduled for an hour and a half. They were billed as necessary, to “inform and educate” about the union. It would appear the commissioners were suddenly so concerned about their employees, they did not want them to get into something they did not understand. Although all caseworkers are college graduates and capable of providing excellent care to the most vulnerable of society, the commissioners, in their infinite wisdom, felt they were unable to do their own research and needed help with education about the union.

Enter wingnut kook extraordinaire, Peter List. Mr. List was not always a union buster. He was a CWA shop steward with AT&T before his job was outsourced to Mexico in ’92. After going back to school, he had an epihany and crossed to the dark side, using his labor relations degree to help companies beat organizing efforts. And his political philosophy has also continued to evolve:

Over time List developed a strongly pro-capitalist, anti-government ideology that still guides him. As a firm believer in Ayn Rand’s philosophy of radical individualism, he opposes all state efforts to regulate labor relations. The website of his company, the North American Employers Group, features links to Capitalism Magazine, the Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism, and the Ayn Rand Institute. You won’t find a business address or phone number on the site, however. The only way to reach List is by e-mail.

As I conducted my research on this hired gun, I became more intrigued as to how someone with an obvious political agenda could be hired with taxpayer money. I came across a 2011 ThinkProgress story, “Florida City Paying $2,500 A Day To Radical Union-Busting Firm To Stop Workers From Organizing,” about city workers trying to organize in Winter Haven, FL in 2011. As it turns out, we are not alone in being targets of List’s anti-union crusade.

From the article:

All over the country, right-wing lawmakers are waging a war on Main Street America’s labor rights, purporting to do so out of a desire for fiscal restraint (while also backing budget-busting tax breaks for the wealthiest among us) ...

… A spokesman for the city told the Orlando Sentinel that it didn’t “do a political background check” on Kulture before hiring the firm and that the city just wants to inform workers about their options. Yet a cursory look at Kulture and the activities it conducts shows what the firm is all about: union-busting.

Kulture’s website is replete with right-wing ideology. It hosts op-eds claiming that sweatshops are an opportunity for the “third world poor” and bragging that the “labor movement is dead.” Its webpages direct users to far-right sources of information such as the Ayn Rand Institute and The Federalist Society. It also hosts the anti-union, which hosts anti-labor articles and a monthly “anti-union report.” The organization’s CEO, Peter A. List, has said that “unions are a by-product of a bad relationship.”

“We’re basically hiring them to make sure that factual, accurate information is given to our employees before they make a vote on whether or not to join a union,” says Winter Park spokeswoman Clarissa Howard. But one has to wonder how hiring a radical, Ayn Rand-promoting anti-union organization will do anything but try to scare workers into submission.

And so I entered my forced attendance indoctrination session. I had told myself I was going to stay calm, keep my mouth shut and just get through it. I lasted 20 minutes. The lies were becoming too blatant. I called them on it. They apologized for “misspeaking”. And it was on. Others began to question the “teacher’. Turns out Mr. List’ reputation preceded him. He was not prepared to deviate from his stump speech and could not keep up with the questions from my colleagues. $2500 a day well spent, commissioners  He seriously did not prepare for this type employment situation. I view myself as a “socialist social worker”. We take money (funding) from the state and distribute it back to the needy and unfortunate among us. For me, helping others is the only work worth doing. List did not understand the type of work we do. Apparently capitalism and social work cannot coexist in his world. Obviously not used to and confused by the strength of the push-back, the meeting ended early, to the delight of ALL the employees. It took me the rest of the day to calm down. Being forced spoon-fed ideological nonsense that is against all your being is not good for your health. I am writing this as a form of therapy for myself, and as a message of hope to others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

The vote is April 11. Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise.


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27 Comments on Chester County, PA Hires Wingnut Kook Union-Buster with Taxpayer Money

  1. Rich, I live in Chester County but don’t follow local gov’t/politics as closely as I should. Who would have made that decision to bring this goon in, do you think? Feel free to send me that information backchannel if you’d rather. This is not OK.

    • According to the union: “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.”

      • Don’t agree with this even a little bit, but the workers have spoken. Congratulations on your hard fought victorious campaign. It’s Democracy even when you don’t agree with the outcome.

  2. So the state hired a firm to balance the information flow going to the workers? Not all workers need to be unionized, especially government workers, who weren’t even considered part of the “labor movement” until over 50 years after it’s inception.

  3. Even if Kevin Metz is right that not all workers need to be unionized, that isn’t his decision to make. There’s exactly one group of people who ought to make that decision–the workers. That’s why they’re about to have an election. Because, democracy.

    And to assert that the state “balanced the flow of information” is literally silly. Kevin Metz has zero idea of any information that’s gone anywhere among any of the interested parties–unless he’s an employee of one of the agencies, in which case he gets a vote just like everybody else does.

    • I do get to make a decision on my opinion of this post, which is all I did. As a union member in both the private and public sectors, I have a good idea of how both the union and management try to make policy beneficial to each respective unit, sometimes, actually most times in the private sector trade unions, owners and management try use profit margin and market as a bargaining chip. However, in the federal government, there is no bargaining power pertaining to salary. Municipal and State unions are one area where I have no direct experience in the workforce other than state and Philly contracts to paint bridges, schools, and other government owned property.
      Now as a taxpayer in Pennsylvania, I do have a say which is my vote for Corbett’s reelection and Republicans in the GA. Government unions support candidates that will bargain in their favor. A Republican administration is certainly well within it’s rights to hire a firm that will decimate information in favor of the State budget and the taxpayers. Democrat Administrations have also had their fair share of battles with public sector unions that are draining budgets with pensions well above private sector counterparts. (see Mayor Nutter and his recent budget “address.”
      Finally, the union report website is just links to articles about union corruption. Let’s not pretend that doesn’t exist or that someone who points it out is a “wingnut.”

      • Thats right, they did ‘decimate’ info in favor of the County’s budget. with a pat on the back for the employees, again. Thats why the petition for representation was filed. They have the right to continue to balance the budget on the backs of the working class, and allow the wealth to continue to flow upwards. Thats why I believe we need a voice, to challenge their right and establish some of our own.

        • Have union representatives held meetings for employers explaining what being unionized means? I know I was given the opportunity to join a federal union and I did not because I am not forced too. I am a Bargaining Unit Employee but I am not a dues paying member. In the federal agency I work for, members of the union have a reputation as being the laziest and most in need of someone speaking up for them who does not work for them directly. Basically, the union is there for people to keep their jobs when they screw up. That’s a government union and that’s why List’s op-ed is correct, the union movement is dying. In a private sector trade union, if your not making money for the company, your laid off. The private sector union will not back if you are a bad worker, government unions will. That’s why Americans see unions as a nuisance more than a voice for workers. The unions should stop trying to grab power through card check and standing in the way of reform governments like Walker and Christie and the Michigan dude. That’s what the op ed meant, but progressives take criticism of unions as being “anti-worker” or “anti-middle class.” That straw man argument just doesn’t hold when not speaking in an echo chamber. “Balancing budgets on the backs of the poor” and the “wealth flowing upwards” are meaningless slogans that cannot withstand simple dollars and cents figures. Walker balanced his budget and teachers got less of a raise than they would have. That’s actual figures, not saying “fair share” over and over. Walker is just one example, there are many more and that is the union movement is dying, the American worker is not dying but the union movement is.

          • What are you smoking? You do not have a clue what your talking about. Middle class wages have been stagnant since the 70’s. The average CEO pay was 25 times the worker rate, now it’s 450. Austerity benefits the oligarchy. I am suprised you didnt include Corbett with your reform governments. Straw man argument is the union only benefits the lazy in protecting their jobs. FYI, card check is not in US labor regulations. Republicans keep shooting it down.

          • What am I smoking? I don’t know what I’m talking about? Relax with the insults and talking points. I gave my opinion of government worker unions; as a government worker, I’m just telling you how I see it and I was more than specific so claiming I created a straw man just doesn’t work.
            Who cares what a CEO makes? And what does what a CEO makes have to do with government workers? Commissioners are now making as much as CEOs, What is your point in using that tired argument about wages?

          • You sir., sound like your paid to screw with people’s lives. You been at this so long you beleave now what you are saying! How much are being payed to carry this message?

          • That’s correct Jody. Anyone who doesn’t have the same views as you and mostly everyone on this site, must be lying or just being paid.
            It reminds me of a saying I hear often that someday will be become more well-known because of the likes of Jody. A Conservative thinks a Progressives ideas are wrong, Progressives think Conservatives are evil. But you are on the right track, Conservative groups should be paying me to post!

  4. I was not going to be active in this campaign, this is not my first rodeo. One person, one vote. It was not until I met List in the MANDATORY indoctrination session. I felt abused by the employer, being forced to listen to his extreme right wing(nut)drivel. Look at the links off his websites. Ayn Rand??? I felt violated. It was after that session I moved over to activist. I knew I had to join the fight. This is the same fight at every level of society. It is related to taxes, services, health care, education, etc. Do I think the employer has my interests in mind? HELL NO! Unions are not perfect, they are like any service. There is good and bad in everything.. But without the union we have no voice, representation. No seat at the table. They will continue to do as they please, without recourse by the employees. The commissioners are more concerned with their triple A bond ratings and being re-elected than giving respect and dignity in the workplace. Even the one democrat . . .

  5. You work for the people of Pennsylvania, you don’t have real owners trying to suck every penny out of your rate like I did in a trade union. If we suck at our jobs, we remain in the union, but it’s hard to find work. In a public union, like the teachers, trying to fire a teacher who can’t teach is akin to splitting the atom. So you have Republican commissioners that making you hear a power point on your stewardship of taxpayer dollars and you call it mandatory? Well if something was done illegal, bring it to the NLRB that’s run by a public union friendly administration.
    I am sure you were totally apolitical until you were called to this “mandatory” meeting and heard “wingnut drivel.” Also, why is it wrong to be a government official and be a fan of Ayn Rand? Progressives say “Ayn Rand” as if accusing the other side in a government union debate are Hitler reincarnates. Atlas Shrugged was written before government unions even existed.

    • Public employees don’t “work for the people” of the state. We work for our bosses, just like anybody else does who has a boss. And if you don’t think public agency management tries to suck every bit of marrow out of their employees, I’ll come visit your planet someday. The public sector has been infected with the same silly management theories as the private sector.

      And nobody said it’s “wrong” for anybody to be a fan of Ayn Rand. The point, which is crystal clear to anybody who isn’t trying to pretend like it isn’t, is that the agency management paid a lot of money to bring in somebody who’s clearly committed to anti-unionism, and they did it pretending that this guy is “educating” the workers about unions. Again, this isn’t complicated to anybody who isn’t trying to make excuses for management.

      As for the salary story from DLN, who gives a damn? Rich hasn’t said one word about bargaining for salaries. Unions bargain for a lot besides pay and benefits, and especially for public sector employees, transparent evaluations and grievance rights are incredibly important to bargain. The workers want a say over their working conditions. Gee, how evil and lazy that makes them.

      • Pennsylvania state workers need a voice because of their working conditions? Salaries are okay, just the working conditions are not good enough? I know what a union drive is, I participated in several, so the ‘If you don’t agree with your from another planet” argument is not only childish but says you didn’t read what I wrote and you are reacting to reading some of my post. The commissioners are well within their rights to answer a union drive with another drive against unionism. Afterall, this is Democracy right? Or Does it only count when only one side of unionism is force fed to employees.
        You are paid with tax money, Yes everyone has a boss, but both you and your boss work for the people of the state if you are a state employees. I work for the federal government, I have a boss but if either one of us spend our time or taxpayer money on something stupid, it’s a news story because in the public’s eye government workers work for the people.
        During campaigns in which unionism is a driving force issue like Wisconsin, unions use their apprentices and workers to campaign for candidates without having to report it to election financial overseers. That way, they can claim the other side outset them. I’ve done it several times, and the downfall of the private sector union is tied to the relationship with public unions when most workers are against tax payer funded unions.

        • Your first point in that last post gets right back to the first thing I said to you–you don’t work in any of those agencies or offices, yet you still feel entitled to decide on behalf of the people who actually do work there whether they should be able to demand representation for themselves. Yes, you’re entitled to your opinion about public sector unions, but you are not entitled to make decisions on behalf of people you neither work with nor even know.

          The agency certainly has a right to try to convince employees not to unionize. The problem, as Rich laid it out in the original article, is that they’re hiring expensive, taxpayer funded opposition to unions in order to do it. You complain about “taxpayer funded unions,” which I’ll say something about in a minute, at the same time you defend management’s right to spend taxpayer money on this? Neat!

          “Been involved in union organizing drives” does not equal “involved in the specific union organizing drive that this article is about.”

          There’s no such thing as a taxpayer-funded union. That’s a really foul strawman argument, as it asserts that I don’t get to decide how to spend my own salary that I earn doing work. I pay dues that come out of the money I get paid to do my job, just like any other union member does. Who signs the paycheck is utterly irrelevant in that regard. If you oppose public sector unions on that ground, then you’re somebody who believes public employees aren’t really working (that we’re all just on the dole in disguise), and we’re done here if you think that–especially because you’ve said you’re a government employee too.

          And you’re not answering my point about management squeezing as much as possible out of both public and private employees, which is the rationale for organizing at all.

          By the way, although it’s your right not to be a member of the union that represents your workplace, in my opinion that you makes you a freeloader unless you reject every single provision the union has earned for people in your workplace.

  6. Okay, your back to name calling. Also, now your putting words in my mouth. You said I think all government workers are on the dole or if I think that or something, that’s called a red herring, similar to a straw man but less obvious. Your trying to make me to be beneath you by claiming I feel a certain way because you have a preconceived notion that government workers are the same as private sector workers. In some respects, they are as you have pointed out that both have bosses and both have management above them making decisions on pay and benys. But, do state workers really want to pay dues for a union that will most likely be more of public nuisance than an actual voice for workers? In Wisconsin many stopped and became the “insult” you called me for not paying dues to a federal union freeloader. Is it really freeloading to not pay into something you don’t have to for something you don’t want? The government cannot go out and hire the best because it costs more. Good CEOs demand more money because they bring more money in, just like professional sports. However, there has to be a recognition on government workers, including myself, as not being profit driven. Franchise Funds, public-private partnerships, and other methods of bridging the gap all have the same intended purpose of saving taxpayer money. You get paid by taxpayer dollars and you want to “force” a worker who does not want to join the union to pay dues. This is the same type of “force” you described when talking about a meeting against unionization. You don’t seem to get it that it’s propaganda from both sides. Johnny who hates the union but has to be pay dues anyway can quit if he feels that strongly, and so could you. You weren’t on a train to Daccau in 1933 Germany, you were in a room in which you were free to leave at any time so let’s go easy on the “forced” metaphors.
    Now you say I’m a freeloader? Okay. But I applied for a job just like everyone else and I got hired without union help. By law, I am not “forced” to pay dues like you want Pennsylvania Chesco workers to be. So I don’t pay, my family needs that money more than the union who will use it to fund candidates I disagree with entirely.
    And as a taxpayer, I do have a say. With government workers, everyone has a say. Of course workers are going to want more money and benys, hell I do, who doesn’t. But it needs to be balanced and this came in the form of a speech about the negative affects of unions. Maybe Chesco residents don’t want a bloated budget filled with 200K a year pensions for janitors. I figured I’d end with a straw man of my own!
    Actually, all this aside, this is the first time I’ve been engaged on this site by someone who knows what the hell they are talking about. Your wrong of course, but you know your shit. Thanks.

    • This would be fun if it weren’t so irritating. This will be my last turn in the discussion since it’s clear that we’re not changing each other’s minds. There’s no exchange here, just speechifying.

      In fact, all I really want to say is this. You hate unions, particularly public sector unions, and you’ve used your legal right to work in a government workplace without joining one. Yay you. That’s the law, that’s your choice.

      You’ve also taken the opportunity to write in response to this and, I gather, other posts on this website in order to do whatever it is you’re trying to do here. I’m not sure what that is, except to reproduce the same dance that union-haters everywhere reproduce on every pro-union piece on every news/opinion/blog site I’ve ever read.

      I won’t even try to figure out how I can simultaneously “be wrong” and “know my shit” since those seem to mean the same thing, but I’ll take the backhanded compliment as a compliment.

      • Easy. Rachel Maddow knows her shit but she’s wrong, in my opinion on almost every political issue I can think of. Same with Obama except for his continuation of War on Terror policies and ramping up the Drone program, things like that. Some people just shoot out wealthy suck poor are victims crap over and over. You obviously know more than just that. Also, I don’t hate unions, I was proud to be in a trade union. I just didn’t like being told how to vote but I got the same thing in the military from the other side. College and unions back in Philly were all libs. The Labor Day Parade in Philly was a shocker which was basically an anti~war rally in 2006.
        If you want to know what I’m doing all you had to do was ask,.and I think you did: I usually only answer posts I disagree with, even on conservative sites, not to start a who is stupider argument by to get into the reasoning behind progressive ideas mostly and right wing ones I disagree with. I came into this not knowing much about Chesco government workers but now I can argue it with some background.
        The people who post aren’t going to change minds, that isn’t the point and should be understood before you answer too deeply. Getting back to me, Yes I don’t see a need for government unions probably never will but I was a pro business and pro union Painters union member from 2002~2012. Now I work for the VA after attending Widener after Iraq. I was in the Guard and served with a lot of great guys from Chester County. I probably know some g-workers involved in this and it will be interesting to see it play out.

        • Please don’t feed the trolls. Second, anyone who accepts union negotiated benefits and does not pay dues is a freeloader or worse. Third, you sound very conflicted. Being a conservative in big gubmint is hard work. And last, thanks for your service, shame it was an unnecessary war promoted by neocons. A lot of vets gonna need help.

          • “Don’t feed the trolls,” said Rich, after responding twice to someone who disagrees with him and before responding for a third time to the alleged “troll.” You think you got it all figured out? Working for the VA as a Conservative is conflicted? Its obvious you havent spent much time around Vets and got to know them. Not many libs, I can assure you that. And 90% of Americans wanted to go to war in Afghanistan and it was bipartisan legislation that allowed the Iraqi invasion. North Korea is acting up, imagine if Saddam’s sons were in power? No, you don’t have to imagine that because he’s dead and his regime is gone. Yeah we lost guys but that is what happens in a war. And in America, we all have a say and everyone doesn’t fit into neat little liberal or conservative boxes when raising a family or defending this nation.
            If you want an echo chamber just say so at the end of your comments. It is possible to be a liberal in the military or a Conservative in a union, I’ve seen both and was one. You can name call all you want but fed unions cannot strike, and our salary is set by the United States Congress. I don’t need representation. If I was in a trade union shop and working non-union while receiving the benefts, that is a freeloader, not a federal union. Federal unions are a joke and do not bargain. This is the way the system is. You want a stat? Less than 5% of employees in my bargaining unit are union members. Your idea of a freeloader is from a book, not real life. My family comes before a union that cannot strike and as federal workers, we should not be able to strike.
            But then again, I’m just a troll.

  7. Nice write up and discussion on both sides but here’s the bottom line. Regardless of the Mafia’s influence on the history of unionization in America; regardless of the horrible conditions of slave labor that existed well past the end of the Civil War in much of the South and near slave labor that continues to this day with capitalists hiring undocumented workers at little pay and inhumane living conditions; regardless of the racist practices by unions trying to keep southern Black migrant workers from taking northern jobs from Whites; regardless the number of police and politicians who continue to be in the pocket of mobsters, whether old style or new style, and so much more…we are way better off today because of UNIONIZATION than we would be had workers just sat down with management and hoped that they would listen.

    Unionizing forces better conditions, not only for the people organizing but for those not organizing. In Chester County between 2002 and 2009 ALL non-unionized county employees benefited more because of the PSSU unionized Courts and Human Services Departments. Just ask any anti-union person working for the County today and they will claim that non-union workers got better raises then union workers. What they won’t tell you is that the raises for non-union workers were always announced after the union contract was negotiated, which means WE UNIONIZED EMPLOYEES SET THE BAR FOR THE REST OF THE COUNTY EMPLOYEES. I prove that by adding one simple question; If the County of Chester was so benevolent, so caring, so generous in its raises to those not unionized, why then did they only exceed the union raises by a quarter of a percent? If we got 3.5% the rest of the county was given 3.75%

    If the Commissioners were trying to show just how good they were to the workers, why not give non-unionized workers 4.5% or 5.5% or 6.5% raises, as they did in the late 1990’s? The answer is because had the unions not been there between 2002 and 2009 this county would have given, as they’ve done over the past 4 years, ZERO to 2% raises.

    Now I know some of you will proclaim that the recession has changed everything, BUT before you step into it, consider this. During this “Recession” Chester County continued to be the WEALTHIEST county in PA; continued to be one of the fastest growing counties in PA; continued to have lower unemployment than most PA counties; continued to increase its RESERVE OF MONEY TO OVER 60 MILLION DOLLARS…I could continue but I hope you get my point. If Chester Count suffered from the recession, then how did it increase by millions of dollars year after year its reserves without raising taxes, to over 60 million dollars???

    This is a moral question that needs to be dealt with. Chester County could give each Human Services Bargaining unit worker a 10% raise and the cost to the County would be about 650,000 dollars. I’m no math professor but 650,000 dollars from a 60 million dollar reserve is invisible. Yet we continue, as the wealthiest county in PA, to be paid at or well below the salaries of all similar job titles in the 5 or even 6 county region, including Philadelphia and Berks Counties.

    So Chester County, in an attempt to scare voters, keep talking about the mafia, striking and dues all you want because this is a moral issue and the morally thing to do is to pay our workers what Bucks County pays their workers, the ones that do the exact same job, which is about $7,000 dollars more per year. Why? Because we are the best workers in the state, we are the most educated county in the state, we are the most productive workers in the state, we are the wealthiest county in the state, we have one of the, if not the largest reserve of money in the state, yet we only have 500,000 residents (go figure how we saved all that money with so few residents paying in.) and we are grossly underpaid. It is not morally right to believe that borrowing money is more important than spending a small portion of your enormous wealth on the workers that protect the weakest in our society.

  8. Although this article focuses mainly on financial matters, organizing a union is done for many reasons, including job protection, legal representation, having a voice about your working conditions, medical benefits, health and safety issues, overtime hours, comp-time, holidays, vacation days, pension plans, protection against an abusive superior; and even helping with charitable causes. Being part of a union provides access to a larger body of organized members one can call upon to help raise money for charitable causes or bring attention to a pressing issue. Please do not go away from this thinking that it’s only about money.

    Wikipedia states: Chester County is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 498,886,[1] with an estimated population of 500,182 in 2011. The county seat is West Chester. It is the highest-income county in Pennsylvania and 24th highest in the nation as measured by median household income (as of 2010).[2]

    The current Chester County official web site states:
    “Chester County is one of the fastest growing counties in Pennsylvania, continuing to attract new residents, businesses and industries. Growth has been faster than anticipated. With growth comes the pressure of additional waste tonnage that needs to be disposed of in a long-term environmentally safe manner, reused or recycled.”

    The currently approved Chester County Budget states on page ix:
    Economic condition and outlook
    “Chester County’s economy remains healthy, with economic indicators surpassing federal, state and
    surrounding county data. The County maintains one of the lowest unemployment rates among the
    Commonwealth’s 67 counties. The three top rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Service, Standard
    and Poor’s and Fitch Ratings have once again reaffirmed Chester County’s Triple-A ratings in August
    2012, based on the County’s economic diversity, fiscally prudent management, planning strategies and
    policies, and high wealth and income levels. Housing in Chester County is primarily owner-occupied, and remains higher than all surrounding counties, as well as higher than the average level across the state and the nation.”

    Key to this discussion are the words from Chief Operating Officer Mark Rupsis; “Chester County’s economy remains healthy, with economic indicators surpassing federal, state and surrounding county data. The County maintains one of the lowest unemployment rates among the Commonwealth’s 67 counties.” What then, is the problem with paying the Human Services workers a fair wage?

    Why are we Social Workers constantly reminded by people way above us on the pay scale, people who claim to believe that we are the most highly educated employees and best workers in the state, and that our jobs are critical to maintaining a civilized and HEALTHY society, that we should feel happy and that we’re lucky to have a job?

    Why, when Chester County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in PA and is also one of the wealthiest counties in America, (and by far the wealthiest in PA) should we hear that we “got into this work not to make money” and therefore should accept falling further and further behind those doing the exact same work in other much less wealthy counties? Based on their logic, 94 to 95% of Chester County workers should shut up and be happy because they too are lucky to be working. If that’s the case, how dire a situation the 5 to 6% unemployed are in, as they stand not a prayer of finding work during these very healthy economic times in Chester County.

    In your own words, Mark, you said Chester County is not only healthy economically, but we’ve “surpassed federal, state and surrounding county data.” This is great news for Chester County residents, and I doubt very much the Commissioners, who like to take at least some credit for this amazingly strong economy, want to campaign on the idea that it was LUCK that kept Chester County thriving through this horrible recession.

    I’m very happy to have my job, Mark, but I don’t feel lucky to be working, simply because I’m educated, I’m good at my profession and I don’t live in Pine Ridge South Dakota or Chester, PA where there are only a handful of jobs compared to the number of people needing them. I don’t feel lucky to be working Mark because, as you pointed out, things are going quite well in my county. However, I’m not seeing the benefits that are seen by those working the same job but doing so in much less economically healthy counties.

    If I, like many of those above me including yourself, who oppose me being part of a union were making between $90,000 and $150,000 dollars a year, I might not feel the need to unionize either, but the fact is Mark, it’s public record that I’ve worked for this county for nearly 15 years make far less ($48,000, combined with spouse under $55,000) than you and so many others who oppose my rising up any further by way of a union. It’s public record that I’m buying my home and therefore pay school taxes and county property and local property taxes; It’s public record that I have a child and wife I support, that I have payments on one six and one seven year old used car, that I’m living paycheck to paycheck and that because I am at or near the top of my pay scale I may never see another raise unless the Commissioners are kind enough to raise that scale.

    I understand why unionizing doesn’t work for people such as yourself, the Directors of agencies, the Director of Human Services and most people making in excess of $85,000 dollars as a single income. However, what I wish you all would consider is that people like me and those worse off than I (Colleagues of mine that qualify for subsidized daycare and other safety net programs) need a strong union so that you will take notice of just how badly your economic policies hurt us.

    Property tax base is flat.
    “While the national economy continues to significantly impact the housing industry, Chester County’s real estate prices continue to experience less of a decline. The change in Chester County’s tax base remained relatively flat for the fourth year in a row, registering a 0.10 percent decrease for 2013, as noted in the chart below.”

    So how is it that the tax base is flat yet Chester County is sitting on over $60 million dollars in (profits) reserves and they just voted to raise my taxes? I understand the consequences of a shrinking tax base long term, but we all know that the housing market is coming back, that our county continues to grow in people and therefore in new home building (more tax payers) and we have an enormous surplus of money that just sits there doing nothing for the people.

    Intergovernmental funding is down.
    “The County has been impacted by a reduction in funds received from federal and state governments. Specific areas include the courts and human services. Chester County receives 30 percent of its revenue from the state, primarily for human services programs, and while funds were decreased again for 2013, Chester County is one of a number of counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania selected to participate in a pilot block grant program from the
    Department of Public Welfare. This gives the County the flexibility of matching services to the needs of its residents, rather than forcing clients into program categories that my otherwise only address a fraction of their needs.”

    The fact is, around 91% of all Human Services money for the Departments of Aging, MH/IDD, Drug & Alcohol, and CYF/Detention Center come from the state, which means that the workers working for these vitally important departments are less than 2% of the tax burden of Chester County residents. On the other hand, Mark, your job and all those that fall under the Commissioner’s office costs, give or take a few dollars, the taxpayers of this county about a million dollars a year to keep open, as those positions are 100% funded by the County tax payers. So rather than dip into the MASSIVE county reserve of over $60 million dollars to fairly and equally compensate the “best workforce in Pennsylvania,” the Commissioners pound their chest over their AAA Bond rating, which allows them to mortgage our future by taking out tens of millions of dollars in loans at a lower rate of interest. It also allows them to pay $3million dollars per year to lease their building with no equity from that lease going as credit for when they will spend $100 million or so to purchase it down the road. But who really cares about that in this County? Certainly not the tax payers, because if they knew the truth about what goes on with their money they’d scream bloody murder to stop it.

    There are over 3,100 counties in America and about 3,000 of them NEVER qualified for the “coveted” AAA bond rating, yet few have gone under. Many counties run quite well on a deficit, yet we can’t seem to run things fairly and honestly on a 60 million dollar surplus. Why is that?

    In 2010, Chester County was wealthier in several ways than all but 23 of the 3,100 plus counties in America and our cash reserve bucket was then and still is overflowing with surplus money. Furthermore, our surplus is over $8 million dollars more than is needed to qualify for the AAA Bond rating; yet the workers that represent less than 2% of the tax burden to the residents of Chester County continue to be paid around the same in some cases and far, far less in other cases as the workers doing the same jobs in much less economically healthy and much poorer surrounding counties.

    I think most rational people working for a company that has over 60 million dollars in reserve (profit) sitting around would be within their rights to feel morally outraged at the unfairness and consider organizing a union to address such issues with leverage. I believe most rational people in this situation would be very upset, and rightfully so, to find out that they received 1% in raises over a three year period while people doing the same work in far worse off companies got raises and in some instances were making five to seven thousand dollars more per year to do the same work. I believe most rational people can see the unfairness in getting just 1% in raises over three years while unionized Adult and Juvenile Probation and Domestic Relations workers received around 12% over that same span of time.

    Now I don’t hear anyone from the Commissioner’s office on down publically screaming about how badly those raises hurt our wealthy budget or about how much it cost the county in legal fees to settle that contract; yet we in Human Services are hearing that drum being beat every day as we prepare to vote.

    Soon after the Commissioners became aware that Human Services workers were again trying to unionize, they decided to give out 2% raises; raises we too would not receive unless we voted not to having a union. However, in the midst of their campaign to stop us from organizing, these very same commissioners worked out a nice four year deal with the County Detectives union that will provide them with 12% in raises over the next four years.

    Where is the massive outcry from the Commissioner’s office on down about how devastating those raises were to the healthiest and wealthiest economy in Pennsylvania? Where is the public outcry from those trying to stop us from unionizing, detailing the specifics of those contracts in an attempt to prove how harmful to the tax payers of this county these unions have been? Nowhere! Could it be that the two anti-union Commissioner’s and those with similar sentiments that work below them choose to remain quiet about these matters so as not to bring attention to how much better off we could be with a strong union? That would be my take on it.

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