AFSCME sets record straight

DEAR EDITOR:

Speaking for the collective body of Trumbull County Department of Job and Family Services, AFSCME Local 458, we have sat by quietly as dozens of articles have been written about us.

It’s time we set the record straight. Recently, two articles appeared about us not receiving incentive bonuses for 2017, and an editorial saying we never should receive incentive bonuses.

We understand agencies have budgets and fully accept we won’t receive our 2017 bonus. What we don’t accept are the half-truths. First, it is a misconception that the bulk of employees’ wages comes from Trumbull County’s general fund. The county contributes only its state-mandated share to the agency. In 2017, that estimate was $675,351 of JFS’s $19,338,709 budget — about 3.5 percent. Incentive funds, on the other hand, are funded entirely by the state. They are not an entitlement; they are the epitome of performance-based compensation. The very purpose of the funds is to reward staff for hitting benchmarks throughout the year for things like timeliness, accuracy and collections on fraudulent claims, and to encourage the agency to continue hitting those goals in the future. If it weren’t for the hard work of the union members in our agency, there would not have been enough funds in place to cover things like the June 2017 overages in the food assistance fund.

Second, it was explained to the public openly that our director was waiting for the collective bargaining agreement to be signed before making a decision about the 2017 bonus. We accepted, in good faith, the contract, not knowing that the terms we agreed to would then be used against us in the decision about the bonus. There would have been no need for retroactive pay had negotiations actually taken place prior to the expiration of our previous contract, instead of after. The JFS employees agreed to an increase in our health care premium share in the most recently negotiated contract, so we too feel the burden of costs increasing.

Finally, let us be clear, we are not political pawns for hire. We do not do the bidding of any politician or commissioner, and we do not appreciate the insinuation that the state-funded incentive bonus we earned is a bribe from any commissioner. We’ve received incentive bonuses in 2015 and 2016, and neither year can we recall any article tying commissioners running for election to the bonus. So let’s not start now.

In the meantime, we’ll continue our dedicated service to the community.

JACK FILAK

Regional Director

AFSCME Ohio Council 8

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