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Deputies bring picket to commissioners' door

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s union held a demonstration Monday at the county courthouse, with the purpose of raising public awareness of its labor dispute and the lack of contracts. And while the union managed to underscore the issue, a lack of communication prevented the occurrence of any meaningful dialogue.

The demonstration took place during the Board of Commissioners’ regular Monday meeting, with crowd noise audible on the inside. Union officials estimated about 75 union members and their families participated in the action.

There are 110 deputies on the force. All are union members. During the meeting, Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent read a statement, which said in part, “Our primary goal is to see these officers fairly compensated, and for the contract to be settled as soon as possible.”

She went on to invite the officers to make a statement at the meeting, for informational purposes only.

As the demonstrators were outside when Lent read the statement they did not hear its content. However, several demonstrators entered the chamber after the statement and displayed signs as the commissioners deliberated another matter.

They did not directly address the board.

Guild president Detective Mike Rodrigue said he would have made a statement had he known of the invitation.

“We’re hoping to get the commissioners’ attention,” he said. “We are serious in saying that we need their help.”

The commissioners were cognizant of the situation, so the demonstration did more to raise public awareness.

Rodrigue took issue with the process of delegating the negotiating process to “professionals,” saying “the professionals aren’t getting it done.”

If neither side gives in the matter will go to arbitration in October, something Rodrigue would like to avoid.

“The worst we could get from arbitration will still be better than anything the county offers,” he said. “But the delay isn’t good for anybody, and costs everyone money.”

Rodrigue accused the commission of using the union as leverage.

“They need to go to arbitration and be forced to give us a good deal,” he said. “If they do it on their own, then they need to give everyone a decent contract. This way, they can say they were forced into it.”

Rob Gudmundson, the county’s labor relations manager, disagreed.

“The county would much rather negotiate a contract with the parties involved to decide their future rather than pay a lot of money to an arbitrator to make a decision for us,” he said.

The biggest sticking point is the inclusion of family members on the health plan, with the unions maintaining such fees should be paid in full. On this topic, Gudmundson said, “The time when an employer pays 100 percent of family health care is at an end.”

Throughout, all parties say the deputies are continuing to do their job well.

In a statement, Sheriff Steve Boyer said he “calls on everyone to work together in a civil and respectful manner in the best interest of all concerned. This includes the county government which must work with diminishing resources and increasing demands and deputies who want to provide for their families.”

To read the full text of the county’s offer, go to www.kitsapgov.com or directly to http://www.kitsapgov.com/pdf/Aug_4-2004_Letter_to_Deputies_Guild_Atty.pdf.

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