Like the teenager who appears at the door offering to shovel snow when it begins to melt, CSEA leadership has missed a window of opportunity.
More than a week ago - after stubbornly not replying for 10 months - the union sent a letter to the county executive and legislators requesting negotiations for County Home employees to "be separated from negotiations for the remainder of Chautauqua County Employee Unit 6300." While the obvious question is what took the union so long, the other question is why did the union say previously this type of "separated" negotiation could not be done?
Regrettably, the trust factor with union leadership is a major issue.
Many employees have privately said all along they were willing to discuss concessions regarding pay and benefits at the Home. In the meantime, this union was marching to a different beat.
Leadership, without consulting with its dues-paying members, made the arrogant offer of a 5 percent pay increase annually for the county workers. At about that same time, it was announced the county was considering future options on the County Home in August 2011.
When the county newspapers published this information on the wage demands, union membership was irate, telling us the information we were printing was incorrect.
In early 2012, workers reluctantly found out the truth. Five percent was the ask.
"It's just unfair that if we truly want to bring the public into this then we need to let them know where we're at with February information, not information from August," said Rose Conti, former CSEA Chautauqua County president, almost as though leadership was a victim.
What residents and CSEA employees in the county deserve, especially those at the Home, is a consistent message.
If the CSEA wants to work with the county, why did it take so long to respond to the county, even after the report from the Center for Governmental Research? If the CSEA wants to do what is in the best interest of county residents, why did its first bargaining chip begin with 5 percent annual raises for its county workers?
In 2008, during the previous negotiations, many CSEA members placed signs in their yards that stated they deserved a fair contract.
Maybe, four years later, those same members should post a different sign this year in their yards asking for more communication and fairness from its leadership - one that is transparent, timely and accountable to its members.