Union members kicked off the strike at 10 a.m. on Friday in a push for better pay. YCEA members say they are striking so they can afford to live in the county they work in.
“With the rapid cost of living increases happening in Yamhill County, many workers are not able to afford housing and basic necessities and many are eligible for state assistance due to low pay,” the union said in a press release sent on Thursday.
The Yamhill County Employees Association covers 400 workers in nearly every department, including “behavioral health and public health clinics, developmental disability services, victim advocacy with the county District Attorney, public works, and many other departments.”
According to YCEA, Yamhill County pays its employees “well below market value compared to counties with similar population sizes, and the cost of living in the area is increasing rapidly due to the burgeoning wine and tourism industries.”
“People are actually having to decide what bills they are going to pay,” YCEA President Michelle Mendoza said.
Union members decided to rally outside the Yamhill Board of Commissioners in McMinnville on Friday after their final mediation session with the county failed on Thursday.
“I do it because I’m fighting for a cause,” Union Vice President Carmen Wilson said. “I’m not here for applause. I’m here because what I do matters.”
KOIN 6 has reached out to county leaders, but has yet to hear back. Meanwhile, the Office of County Administrator released a fourth update to their ongoing negotiations with the union on Friday:
The county remains committed to continuing to work with AFSCME to reach an agreement. However, any agreement will need to reflect an equitable balance between the wants and needs of our AFSCME-represented employees, the level of available funding and the interests of the taxpaying public.
The County’s management team has been preparing for an imminent strike and now that a strike is underway, we are assessing impacts to services and operations, and will be posting updates and changes to office hours and contact information.
According to the union, a number of services offered by the health department, public works and even mental health services can be affected. But Wilson said they are not going to stop until they get a fair contract.
“We’re the ones out in the community. We’re the ones dealing with these people. So we just want what we deserve, which is fair wage,” she said. “I don’t think 15% is asking too much”
The union will hold a second rally at noon on Friday. The next mediation session is scheduled for Tuesday.
A complete copy of the county’s Union Strike and Mediation Update is listed below:
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.