Commissioners vote to keep union workers' health care deduction
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Miami-Dade County's labor unions suffered a setback Thursday after county commissioners voted in favor of retaining a deduction from county employees' paychecks that covers health care costs.
For the past several years, county employees have had a five percent concession that goes towards their group health care plan deducted from their paychecks. That measure was upheld in an 8-4 vote with the exception of solid waste workers, the lowest paid in the county.
Throughout the day, Miami-Dade union representatives and workers packed the county commission chambers ahead of the highly anticipated decision. "This is a day about families," said union attorney Mark Richard. "This is about your cousins, this is about grandmas, this is about people in every single neighborhood who have done so much and who have been betrayed."
Richard indicated that finding common ground between county officials and the workers who want that five percent deduction restored to their paychecks should be the commission's top priority. "There is no way that we cannot find some compromise on this budget," he said.
The major deadlock surrounding the five percent health care contribution set to expire on 2014 revolves around Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez's request to extend the provision one more year. The mayor argued that a vote in the workers' favor would cost the county $37 million. "I can predict with confidence that significant service impacts and layoffs will be necessary," he said during the hearing. "The people that we serve will lose out, and so will many of our employees."
Union representatives and county workers voiced their support for the removal of the five-percent concession, citing the high cost of co-pays and premiums. "In 2011 I had to remove my kids from the county health insurance and place them on Florida Health for Kids because the co-pays and the premiums were just too costly for me," said a woman who works for the county.
County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said she objected a measure that would solid waste workers but would apply to all other union workers. "I couldn't support that, because either we give back to all of them, or we don't give to any of them," she said.
The most heated discussions in the impasse battle were the ones between Giménez and Miami-Dade Police Union President John Rivera. At a budget cuts forum that took place at a West Miami library Wednesday night, the two men went head to head over the issue.
Mayor Carlos Giménez: "Tomorrow is a very important day for you John."
John Rivera: "Every day is an important day! These cops risk their lives every day for ungrateful people like you!"
Rivera said the mayor is holding back on a $52 budget surplus. "How many mistakes does it take before somebody's declared incompetent or not having the ability to provide the right administration of this government?" said Rivera.
Giménez insisted the numbers speak for themselves. "If we don't have the increase in the revenue to match it, we're just going to create a bigger and bigger hole," he said.
It is uncertain whether the money from the five-percent concession would have trickled over to other Miami-Dade County employees. There are two additional county budget meetings scheduled for September before it is finalized.
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