By COLIN STAUB
AFSCME Local 88 members approved a contract with Multnomah County in early November. The County approved it on Dec. 1. But workers won’t see the negotiated retroactive pay—which goes back to July—until mid-February.
It’s a similar story for the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), which ratified a contract with the Multnomah County Health Department in mid-November and had the county commission sign off on it Dec. 1. The county says those workers won’t get their retroactive pay until Feb. 15. [Update: ONA has learned the retroactive pay actually won’t be coming until Feb. 28]
The back pay is not insignificant: Local 88 negotiated a 5% cost-of-living adjustment retroactive to July 1. For a worker making $20 per hour (the new minimum wage under the AFSCME contract), and working 40 hours per week, that would amount to $1,040 in retroactive pay from July through the end of December.
Both the AFSCME and ONA contracts also provided bonuses to workers, bonuses the county planned to pay on checks issued at the end of December.
At the Dec. 1 meeting of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, AFSCME Local 88 President Joslyn Baker asked county officials to pay the bonuses by Dec. 15 and the retroactive pay by Jan. 15. During the meeting, county workers in units represented by Local 88 and ONA testified about the need for back pay to come sooner. Alex Fortune, an ONA-represented nurse at East County Health Center, read testimony from a nurse who couldn’t attend the meeting: “We can’t tell the student loan providers, the landlords, the grocers, the banks, to wait for us to pay them later, so why should we have to accept that from the county? We earned that money, we deserve to get it right away.”
Several county commissioners expressed their hope that the county could expedite the retro pay and bonus payments. But when Commissioner Sharon Meieran proposed that the board vote to take official action to get workers the money sooner, then-Chair Deborah Kafoury and county attorney Jenny Madkour shot that idea down.
“All of those sorts of discussions are discussions for the bargaining table, and this is not the bargaining table right now,” Madkour said.
Baker said the implementation dates are separate from the bargained details of the contract, meaning the retroactive pay timing could be discussed outside of contract negotiations. But Kafoury ultimately ended the conversation and called for a vote, saying the timeline could be discussed later.
“This is the Multnomah County rules, and this is my meeting, and I’m going to listen to my county attorney’s advice,” Kafoury said.
At press time, Local 88 hadn’t heard any updates from the county on the retroactive pay. ONA confirmed the retroactive pay is still delayed until Feb. 15.