By Reagan Connelly
Jefferson County Deputies now have a union contract.
On Tuesday, June 28, 2022, Jefferson County Commissioners and Sheriff Nick Georgi signed a contract with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) establishing a union for the Sheriff’s Department in Jefferson County.
The Sheriff’s Department has been unionized since January of this year but a contract had not yet been signed. At the time, county attorney Joe Casson commented that prior to this Jefferson County was a rarity in that it is one of the few counties in Nebraska without a unionized sheriff’s department.
As management, the Sheriff is not a member of the union.
Unions allow for “collective bargaining,” meaning they negotiate for all workers in the union, rather than having each worker negotiate individually. Both Casson and Georgi have noted in the past there is a difficulty in attracting and retaining employees willing to work in this area and the primary incentives the county has to offer are pay and benefits.
Negotiations began in April of 2022 and have continued until now. Though both the union and the sheriff’s department commissioned studies on wages for deputies, those numbers have changed since the studies were done due to ever rising inflation.
It was decided deputies would be paid a minimum of $23.15 an hour if uncertified. This amount does increase as a deputy attends the academy, gains certification, graduates from probation and continues to work for the department. The wages currently cap at $26.50 an hour for deputies with certifications of three or more years.
Deputies are not obligated to join the union. All deputies will get all the benefits of a union contract whether or not they are dues paying members. However, deputies that are not members of the union will not get legal representation in the event of a dispute.
Before signing, Commissioner Mark Shoenrock emphasized the importance of recruiting and retaining deputies without too much cost to the taxpayers. He said, “We want a contract with our law enforcement that is going to give Jefferson County the best opportunity to recruit and retain a quality workforce for our law enforcement. And we don’t want to be excessive, but we don’t want to be under either. We want to find that target middle.”
After learning the union had signed the contract as it was written, the commissioners signed the contract.
While signing, Schoenrock highlighted the importance of law enforcement in Jefferson County. “I really do view Law Enforcement as something that is kind of separate from the rest of our workforce,” he said to Sheriff Georgi. “I mean you guys have your lives on the line every day that you go to work.”
After the meeting, FJN reached to commissioners and asked how the union contract compared to what law enforcement had previously. Schoenrock said, “This is the first labor union contract for our law enforcement. The labor cost increased approximately 7.9%. The resulting salary structure is mid-range of other comparable counties. Similar to businesses and private entities, we are expecting a cost increase for the county benefit package as well but will not know that figure until probably August when our insurance broker reports to us.”
Schoenrock added, “Quality public safety and transportation infrastructure will always be our highest priorities to serve the citizens of Jefferson County.”
By Reagan Connelly