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Saratoga County employees continue to picket for fairer contract while negotiations are on hold

Saratoga County CSEA unit members picketing in Ballston Spa during a County Board of Supervisors meeting
Aaron Shellow-Lavine
Saratoga County CSEA unit members picketing in Ballston Spa during a County Board of Supervisors meeting

Civil Service Employees Association union workers in Saratoga County are continuing to call for a fairer contract, saying it would improve recruitment and retention efforts.

Members of the local CSEA unit picketed outside Tuesday’s Saratoga County Board of Supervisors meeting in Ballston Spa with bright signs conveying their demands.

Leading a group of workers around the back of the building so their chants could be better heard in the meeting room, CSEA spokesperson Therese Assalian says it’s time for a new contract.

“Saratoga County workers are tired of waiting for a contract, they want respect and they want this contract settled as soon as possible. The longer they drag it out the more we’re just going to keep coming back and the more expensive it’s going to be for the county and taxpayers because we’re going into mediation. And it’s in everyone’s to get this solved,” said Assalian.

The 500-member unit voted down a proposed contract in December, under which members would have received a $4,000 pay increase with yearly raises of 2.95% from 2025 to 2028. County officials say that contract was made in collaboration with CSEA leadership. Assalian says proposed pay increases were outweighed by an increase in health insurance costs, hiking payments for everyone contributing under 20% over five years.

Speaking with WAMC during an executive session that lasted roughly 45 minutes, Clifton Park DMV Senior Clerk Erica Mason says a contract needs to take into consideration cost of living increases.

“In order to live in this county, you have to get a fair paycheck. You have to have fair benefits and currently that’s not really happening. A lot of the employees are unfortunately being forced to move back in with family, I’m one of them. I would not be able to really live on my own so I’m living with my family because of the cost of Saratoga County. And it’s rather difficult to work in a county but not be able to live here comfortably,” said Mason.

Mason has been working for the county since 2012, and says their current demands are reasonable.

“We know that we’re not going to be making six figures and all that other things, but we just ask to be paid for what we do. And right now, we are working so hard, we’re all understaffed, it’s long hours. And to just finally feel like we’re seen and that they respect us because we are the reason why the county keeps flowing,” said Mason.

Ron Woodbeck has been working for the Saratoga County Department of Social Services for almost five years. He says low wages only worsen staffing shortages.

“Well ultimately at full capacity we would have 35 caseworkers and we currently have 11 openings. Five of the 24 that we do have are in training and two of them aren’t in rotation. So, we’re operating at less than half capacity staff wise and the case load continues to increase. So, it’s a struggle and there’s a lot of pressure and a lot of undue stress because of the lack of staffing,” said Woodbeck.

Woodbeck says many county employees leave for neighboring counties, seeking better salaries and benefits.

“You know I’m a preventative services worker, I also do investigation where other counties, their preventative workers don’t have to take on that added responsibility yet I’m paid less. You know, nobody’s getting rich, we’re public servants we understand that. But, we do want to be paid commensurate to our efforts,” said Woodbeck.

Speaking during a public input session packed by CSEA members, Saratoga County DPW employee Mike Burke stressed that the union’s members keep the county running.

“Like I said we’ve got people picking either to put food on the table or fuel in their furnace and that is happening here in Saratoga County to employees. And that’s wrong, that shouldn’t happen. Not with a county with a surplus like this. And like I said these people aren’t trying to get rich, not at all. Just fair. And there’s nothing wrong with that, right? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to be fair to people, is there,” said Burke.

Following the comments, County Board of Supervisors Chair Phil Barrett, a Republican from Clifton Park, acknowledged negotiations are currently at a standstill.

“CSEA has also declared an impasse in negotiations. Therefore, we have not been negotiating currently. Right now, we are waiting for [NYS Public Employment Relations Board] to assign a mediator and when a mediator is assigned the negotiating sessions will begin again. So we look forward to working with you as we enter the next phase of the negotiating process,” said Barrett.

The Saratoga County Deputy Sheriff’s PBA is also trying to renegotiate a five-year contract after just one year. Representatives says stagnant wages have led to insufficient staffing with only roughly 100 active officers out of a budgeted 140.

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