Nebraska Association
of Public Employees

Richardson County Members Work Entire Year Without a Contract, File For Impasse

Fourteen NAPE/AFSCME members who work for the Richardson County Roads Department have worked for an entire year without a contract and without a pay raise. These members have been at the negotiating table for months trying to get the County to agree to a pay raise in order to attract and retain employees.  

With the county offering a 0% salary increase from July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024, unless a list of anti-union demands were met, our members have been left with no choice but to declare impasse and send the dispute to the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR). Now it’s time for all NAPE/AFSCME members to stand in solidarity. The county’s treatment of our members is appalling, and It’s important to understand some of the history of these negotiations.

In June 2022, a Richardson County Commissioner approached a NAPE/AFSCME union steward and offered a 10% raise for our members. According to the Commissioner, all the members needed to do was tell our union to write the county a letter. Our members did not believe that this was a good-faith offer based on past interactions with the county commissioners. Our members were also concerned that the commissioners were interfering with the union’s ability to negotiate collectively.

Despite the concerns, at the county’s request, a union steward attended a Richardson County Commissioners meeting to request the 10% raise that was offered. When our steward attended, the Commissioners said they were not offering any raise.

As a result, our union filed a prohibited practice charge at the CIR. Although the CIR declined to sustain the prohibited practice charge, in its decision the CIR stated, “The County Board’s refusal to initiate salary negotiations could perhaps not have created such a problem had they communicated more effectively with the Union.”

In accordance with our union contract, prior to the expiration date in June 2023, NAPE/AFSCME requested to begin contract negotiations. Union members assumed that the county would engage in meaningful negotiations for a successor agreement to begin on July 1, 2023, especially since the commissioners and management had already approached union members about raising wages multiple times as evidenced in the CIR’s decision.

The county, however, refused to immediately begin bargaining, continually delayed negotiations, and did not make its first wage proposal until early 2024.  In that wage proposal, the commissioners refused to offer any salary increase at all beginning on July 1, 2023. Instead, the county’s wage proposal would only begin after the contract was ratified — a process that could take several more weeks, if not months, given the county’s previous delay tactics. In other words, the county’s plan to withhold raises until after ratification would mean that our members had been working for nearly a year with no contract and no raises.

Additionally, in order for the county’s wage proposal to take effect, our union members would have to agree to all of the following conditions:

  • Give up dues deduction and authorization 
  • Let the County Commissioners be the final decision-maker in all grievances 
  • Laid off employees forfeit seniority, even if they are recalled back to work 
  • Give up certain overtime benefits and time-and-a-half holiday pay
  • Give up the ability to roll over accrued vacation time from year to year
  • Forfeit all earned sick leave after leaving service
  • Give up the right to 5 days of paid injury leave if they are injured on the job
  • Give up safety protections including OSHA language contained in our contract
  • Waive the right to file with the CIR if the commissioners unilaterally change something that is a mandatory subject of bargaining
  • Waive certain disciplinary protections

In other words, to get a salary increase, our Richardson County members had to give up much of their union contract. Members were prepared to accept the county’s wage proposal, but not the laundry list of anti-worker conditions.

The Richardson County Commissioners have been union busting for two years. They proposed a 0% raise for the first year of contract and offered a wage increase in the second and third years if, and only if, our members were willing to give up the most important protections that our union contract guarantees for workers.

Our union will not stand for the continued disrespect from the Richardson County Commissioners. All NAPE/AFSCME members stand in solidarity with the Richardson County Roads Department and support our members during impasse proceedings at the CIR.

Nebraska Association of
Public Employees