Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Drivers on H Street likely noticed a group of picketers in front of the Flynn Center Tuesday, carrying heart-decorated signs and cheering. The picketers were county employees who had just been in the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Norma Williams, chapter president of Del Norte County Employees SEIU 1021, said employees wanted to send the message to Supervisors to “have a heart, to think about your county employees, the low wages we are working under, the now acknowledged ... recruitment and retention problem as a result of our low wages, and also to remind you that, as a result, there was a salary study conducted, negotiated in good faith and paid for by the taxpayers of this county that clearly shows county employees are underpaid, anywhere between 11 to 16 percent against 10 comparable counties.”

Williams said low wages are the primary reason for the recruitment and retention problem in this county.

“By keeping the wages low, you lower the bar in terms of the services we provide and the people that we serve,” she said. “You have to understand that if we are able to pay better wages, offer better benefits, we are then able to retain the quality staff that you have now ... but you’re also able to recruit more, thereby increasing the services we provide and expanding the client base.”

Doing so, Williams said, helps to keep people from falling through the cracks of county services.

Member Donna Wheeler, an 11-year county employee, asked the board to resolve the issues so employees can have a fair contract.

“I want you to see the urgency in that we don’t have a contract right now and it is very important,” she said.

Tracy Merrifield, union member, said she has worked in Health and Human Services for 11 years. She said it’s hard to think that she could make more money in another county when she has great attachment to this area and the community.

The picket was not part of a strike but simply an informational picket.