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CSEA-Represented St. Lawrence County Public Employees Overcome COVID-19 Challenges, Secure Five-Year Contract ‘With The Help Of’ County Officials

Published Wednesday, June 3, 2020
by Nicholas Newcomb/CSEA Workforce
CSEA-Represented St. Lawrence County Public Employees Overcome COVID-19 Challenges, Secure Five-Year Contract ‘With The Help Of’ County Officials

(CANTON, NEW YORK) - When St. Lawrence County Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local President Amy Simmons and her negotiating team reached a Tentative Agreement with the county in early March, the team was unsure what sort of impact the Coronavirus would have on the ratification process - or if a ratification vote would even happen.

While local governments across New York State were already struggling to fill budget gaps due to shifted Medicaid costs, the loss of sales tax revenue due to New York State on PAUSE created even larger deficits. 

A number of CSEA negotiations across the state had broken down due because localities were afraid to commit to long-term contracts without being able to forecast the financial impact of COVID-19.

Simmons was unsure how to take the next steps in the bargaining process, especially because she and some other County Employees began working remotely after the Tentative Agreement was reached.

St. Lawrence County Officials called her at home and explained they wanted to be able to finalize the deal at their May 4th meeting.

Simmons was, admittedly, doubtful that would even be able to happen.

“At first, I thought I don’t see how that’s possible because in the past we’d do ‘road shows’ where we go explain (the contract) to different groups of people so that I’d feel comfortable everyone understands what they’re voting on.  And I said, ‘I don’t see how we could possibly do that,’” Simmons said.

But the county was persistent and wanted to work with CSEA to finalize the contract.

The next step in the process was to inform CSEA Membership about changes made to the contract.  There were 10 pages of information that Simmons needed to send to members - a tough task to fulfill when some Employees were working remotely.  But the county actually assisted in printing and mailing the contract information and even the ballots.

Because meeting face-to-face was no longer an option, the county also hosted a number of Zoom meetings on their account to let Simmons field questions from CSEA Members and CSEA also hosted a call that members could dial into.  

In the end, more than 100 Members joined the Zoom meetings or dialed into the information call.

“We were ‘all concerned’ (about the new methods), ‘but that quickly turned into people being very pleased with the process,’” Simmons said. “We ‘didn’t hear one negative’ comment, ‘but I think people understood it was a good thing to get (the contract) done.’”

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