The “limited-term employees” hired by Multnomah County to supplement its workforce during the pandemic scored a victory last week: the same bonuses already awarded to full-time county staff.
January 12, WW reported that although term employees worked the same hours for the same pay as full-time employees and were also represented by the union of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, they did not have not received the one-time payment of $500 that their full-time colleagues received at the end of last year, nor did they receive allowances of up to $40 per month to cover internet service home.
Term employees, many of whom are people of color or were hired for culture-specific knowledge or language skills, complained to county commissioners about their disparate treatment in a Jan. 3 letter.
Jesse Hyatt, one of the term employees, said he and his co-workers believe the county’s failure to pay them the benefits others receive is inconsistent with the county’s commitment to fairness. .
“We are all very frustrated,” Hyatt said. WW. “Given the circumstances, we are treated like second-class citizens.”
Later the same day WW‘s is out, the county has reached an agreement with AFSCME that will allow term employees to earn the same additional compensation as their full-time peers.
“As a result, all term employees represented by AFSCME will be eligible for the one-time $500 equipment allowance (after one year under the term appointment) and, if applicable, the monthly utility allowance of $20 for hybrid workers (who telecommute 50% or more and do not have an assigned office in a county building) or $40 for routine telecommuters (who telecommute 100% of the time) said county spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti.
(The county has approximately 6,000 full-time employees. The Multnomah County Health Department has hired approximately 115 term employees to help respond to COVID-19 in various ways. Some of them have since moved to full-time status.)
Hyatt, who is also executive director of the American Black Chamber of Commerce, says he applauds the county for doing the right thing, but wishes officials had agreed to make the payments without pressure.
“While some may herald this as a victory for diversity equity and inclusion, DEI cannot just be measured by checkmarks in a column, but rather by movement towards policies that, from the initially, focus on inclusion versus exclusion,” says Hyatt. “I hope to see future policies and the leaders who guide those policies truly embrace the kind of results we saw today, without the need for advocacy. This is a county to be proud of.”