CWA Local 1081
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Newark, NJ, 07102
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Fax: (732) 988-1081

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December 28, 2007


Via Facsimile and U.S. Mail

Steven Katz, Assistant to the Director of Unfair Practices

Public Employment Relations Commission

PO Box 429

495 West State Street

Trenton , NJ 08625-0429


RE:     County of Essex and CWA Local 1081

Docket No. CO-2008-140

Our Case No. 1J-07-201


Dear Mr. Katz: 


            Please accept this letter as CWA’s position statement in the above referenced matter. 

I.          FACTS:

            CWA Local 1081 (“CWA”) and the County of Essex (the “County”) are parties to a collective negotiations agreement that expires on December 31, 2007.  The parties are currently involved in negotiations for a successor contract.  CWA represents a unit of employees who work in the County’s Department of Citizen Services, Division of Welfare.  On or about October 9, 2007, the County Administrator , Joyce Wilson Harley (“Harley”), distributed a letter to all County employees, regarding health care costs and coverage.  (See Attachment #1). 

In the first line of this letter, the County indicated that it faced a “serious financial crisis” because of the costs of health care for County employees.  The County then implored employees that “[w]e must take action now.”  The letter continued by stating that, “[w]e together must implement significant [health care] changes on January 1, 2008,” and “[o]nly with changes in plan design and contributions can we avoid the enormity of the $8 million increase.”  The correspondence then threatened, ““[i]f we do not implement changes now for January 1st, the County will be forced to take other, more drastic measures that will have dire consequences for our government.”  This letter also advised employees that the County “need[s] your help and partnership in working cooperatively to make the changes needed to protect the financial stability of our benefit plans for years to come.”  The County also noted that, “we must work together to implement a health and wellness strategy that can be a model for the State.” 

The second to last paragraph of this letter reads:

Over the past 4 ½ years this County has faced many challenging and complex issues. Each time, under the leadership of our County Executive , we were successful because we addressed the problem right away and did what was in the best interests of the residents of Essex County . Time and again, we have confronted and overcome daunting challenges. With your help, I am convinced we’ll do it again in dealing with this latest crisis. I appreciate the importance of your health and prescription drug benefits and the need to ensure you and your families have access to comprehensive insurance.


The first negotiation session between the County and CWA took place on October 16, 2007.  The parties met subsequently on October 18 and 23.  The parties discussed the issue of health care costs during these negotiation sessions, but were unable to reach an agreement on this issue.  On or about October 25, 2007, Harley distributed a second letter to all County employees.  (See Attachment #2).  Harley declared that she wrote this letter in order to respond to the “many questions that have been raised in the two [negotiations] meetings, and in casual conversations in the halls of Essex County .”  This one page letter included a second sheet entitled ”Essex County Health Care Benefits Fact vs. Fiction” (“Fact vs. Fiction” sheet).  The document identified 5 pieces of inaccurate information (i.e. fictions), and then supplied what the County believed to be the correct information. 

For example, the first “fiction” listed is that “[b]enefit levels will change.”  The County then supplies the “fact” in that “[b]enefit levels and plans remain the same.”  The second “fiction” delineated is that “[e]ligible dependents will no longer be covered.”  The “fact,” according to the County is that “[e]ligible dependents will continue to be covered.”  The third “fiction” listed is that “[a]ctive employees with 25 or more years of service will lose their lifetime health benefits.”  The County then attempts to set the record straight by proclaiming that the “fact” is that “[n]othing could be further from the truth.”  The fourth “fiction” asserted is that “[t]he County can only cover the increased cost of health benefits by curtailing all capital projects.”  The “fact,” however, is that “[c]apital projects are funded through a combination of grants and bonds.  Each specifies the items on which those dollars may be spent.  Health benefits are not a permitted item.”  The final “fiction” listed is that “[c]o pays will be increased to $80 per doctor’s visit.”  The “fact,” according to the County, is that ”[t]he only co pay that would be affected is the prescription drug plan co pay.  A $40 co pay would apply to non-formulary drugs bought at retail establishments. And, a co pay would apply to mail order drugs.  Mail order co pays for a 90 days supply of prescription drugs would be as follows:  Generic- $20, Brand- $50, Non- formulary- $80.”  

            Subsequent negotiation sessions have taken place on November 5, 9 and 21, and December 21.  To date the parties still have not reached an agreement on the issue of health care costs and coverage. 


            When the County distributed the letters dated October 9, 2007 and October 25, 2007 to all employees it violated Sections 5.4a(1) and (5) of the Employer Employee Relations Act (“EERA”), N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1, et seq., by directly dealing with unit employees concerning the mandatorily negotiable issue of health insurance.  The distribution of the letters by the County also constituted an independent Section 5.4(a)(1) violation, as the County coercively interfered with the rights of unit employees guaranteed by the EERA.  Additionally, the letters undermined CWA as the exclusive majority negotiations representative of unit employees in violation of Sections 5.4(a)(5) and (a)(1) by.  The law is well settled that the Director of Unfair Practices will issue a complaint “if it appears that the allegations of the charging party, if true, may constitute an unfair practice within the meaning of the Act.”  N.J.A.C. 19:14-2.1.  In this case, CWA’s allegations, if true, clearly constitute unfair practices.  Accordingly, CWA respectfully requests that a complaint be issued. 


          CWA has met the standard for the issuance of a complaint, as it appears that the Union ’s allegations, if true, constitute unfair practices.  Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, the Commission should issue a complaint. 

                                                                        Respectfully Submitted,



                                                                        David A. Tango, Esq.



cc:        Lynn Buckley, CWA National Representative (with enclosures) (via mail)

            David Weiner, President, CWA Local 1081 (with enclosures) (via fax)