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Winter 2013-14

Contracting out destroys 12 Thurston County jobs

by County and City Employee staff on January 24, 2014

COUNCIL 2 has strongly protested a move by Thurston County to contract out the jobs of 12 long-time custodians.

All the custodians are members of Council 2.

Outsourcing the work will save money, according to the county’s budget and fiscal manager Robin Campbell and will help to make up a budget shortfall.

But the decision, spearheaded by County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela, not only puts 12 employees out of their jobs, it also replaces them with a non-union contractor that isn’t required to pay anything beyond minimum wage — and certainly not health care or a retirement plan, Council 2 Deputy Director Pat Thompson points out.

The union is aware of the county’s financial situation and offered to partner with the county to address the budget shortfall, Thompson adds.

“We repeatedly asked to make up the deficit with overall concessions, but Karen Valenzuela, led by biased management staff, insisted that the only option was to turn over the entire custodial department to a for-profit contractor,” he says.

“These people have bills to pay, families to support,” Council 2 Staff Representative Denny Finegan told a recent hearing to consider the issue.  “They deserve to keep their jobs. They don’t need to be tossed into the trash like a bunch of garbage.”

A major concern is the buildings’ security, Finegan added. “Outside workers would be brought into the county’s 19 owned and leased buildings, especially the courthouse,” he said.

But in November the commissioners voted 2-1 to contract out the custodians’ jobs.

Commissioner Sandra Romero voted against the budget package. She said outsourcing could put public safety at risk, especially when it came to emergency operations.

Commissioner Valenzuela told the custodians that county officials would help them find other jobs in county employment over the seven months before the cuts become effective.

Finegan is skeptical that the workers will be moved to other positions.

“If the work had gone away, that would have been a bitter pill that we would have to swallow,” he says. “But their work didn’t go away.

“It was given away.”