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With Clock Ticking, State Workers Rally for New Contract

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June 23, 2011

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Time is running out for thousands of state employees whose contracts expire June 30, and many of those workers rallied statewide this week demanding a fair shake.

Gov. Tom Corbett is proposing furloughs and a 4 percent pay cut next year.

Service Employees International Union Local 668 represents about 20,000 employees across Pennsylvania who work with residents in areas such as mental health, social services and developmental disabilities. Jeff Seabury, a counselor at the state Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Labor and Industry and a Local 668 member, says the services he provides - helping get people with disabilities back to work - returns somewhere between $3 and $7 for every dollar the state spends.

"It allows them to contribute to their community and live a lifestyle that any productive citizen wants to live."

Corbett's proposal would follow the 4 percent pay cut in year one of the contract with 2 percent increases in each of the next two years. It also would roll back health care.

Another element of the administration's proposal, Seabury says, would increase caseloads for union members by about 20 percent.

"We're not going to be able to serve the same amount of people, so how does that save the commonwealth money? How does that serve the citizens of the commonwealth?"

Policymakers in Harrisburg also must remember that members of his union aren't just employees of Pennsylvania, Seabury says.

"I want my state to be vibrant and effective in its administration but, on the other hand, we can't do that at the expense of our citizens who are the most needy and the most dependent on the services that we provide."

The two sides have met numerous times. While progress is being made, according to the president of Local 668, some big issues remain on the table.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA