Unions should represent employees, not work against their own members’ interests. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to public sector workers in Erie—and some are pushing back.
During closed-door negotiation meetings (with taxpayers footing the bill), Erie Water Works offered two retirement/benefits packages to AFSCME Local 2206, the union representing these workers. Yet the union presented just one option to members for ratification, depriving them of vital information.
Not only did union leaders deceptively withhold information, but the hidden option included higher pay and additional benefits—the very issues hypothetically prioritized by a union.
For Mark Kiddo, a union member who has worked for Erie Water Works 16 years, the move was clear: “The union is breaking its own rules.”
Why would union leaders mislead their own members? The option including increased salaries and benefits also placed new workers in a 401(k)-style plan, and union leaders are committed to keeping a traditional defined-benefit pension plan.
Pennsylvania union leaders have long defended defined-benefit pensions, despite their unsustainability and risk to taxpayers. So the union forced Erie Water Works employees into accepting a plan for lesser pay increases and no new benefits. Though purporting to negotiate on behalf of members, the final contract reflected union priorities and not the views of their members.
We thought AFSCME was working for us…But it turns out our union leaders are willing to knowingly conceal information from us if it suits their purpose. We deserve fair and honest representation.
Mark Kiddo, Erie Water Works Employee
Kiddo and seven other employees, with the assistance of public interest law firm The Fairness Center, filed a lawsuit this week against AFSCME 2206. They are seeking monetary damages, but according to The Fairness Center:
Mark and his co workers ultimately want AFSCME officials to honor their duty to fairly represent public employees and the chance to accept the higher pay, benefits, and defined-contribution retirement plan for new employees that Erie Water Works offered.
A union truly representing workers would invite members into the negotiation process, not make deals behind closed doors with public officials.
In Kiddo’s own words: “We thought AFSCME was working for us…But it turns out our union leaders are willing to knowingly conceal information from us if it suits their purpose. We deserve fair and honest representation.”