Nearly 700 employees plan to walk out in Lane County strike
EUGENE, Ore. - Negotiations are taking place, and it could be just a few hours until workers in Lane County start a strike if the contracts are complete.
For now, however, employees are preparing for a walkout.
Throughout the strike, if it does happen, there are several services that will be suspended starting on Wednesday.
Both the county and the employees have been negotiating since March on a new three-year contract. However, the two sides have failed to agree so far on roughly $20 million in employee compensation costs.
Employee health insurance contributions have been a driving factor in the negotiations, as well as employee wages.
Lane County operations are downsizing during the start of the strike on Wednesday. Health clinics and human services are just two examples, but many more services will be suspended when the strike starts at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
"The longer these services go without being provided, the greater the impact on the community," said Jim Steiner, Union Representative for ASCME.
Nearly 700 county employees will be walking away from work, and during a strike, the county would have to shut down four of its six clinics in Eugene and Springfield.
The two remaining health clinics that would be left open won't have any nurses due to the walkout. Because of this, there will be nobody to provide flu shots for patients as we head into flue season.
"Really, we are talking about the health of a whole community," said Steiner.
Lane County Public Health says they will not be able to provide immunizations, STD or HIV testing during the strike, either.
Several other health-related services will also be suspended, and the county will have to manage their services with nearly 700 fewer employees.
"Trying to establish opportunities to communicate with our community members about those changes has been an important part of the process," said Devon Ashbridge, Spokesperson for Lane County.
In the wake of a possible strike, Lane County is shifting focus to community outreach. The county has a new hotline number on their website, as well as information explaining the changes during the strike.
Even so, AFSCME's Steiner says that this won't be enough to curb the effects of the strike.
Steiner says that the union is prepared for the long haul with a strike, but in the mean time, thousands of people will be left without critical county services.