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Tulsa city employees in wage dispute

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For Tulsa city workers who haul the trash, it's not only a hard job; it's one that doesn't pay any better than it did four years ago.

That's why the employee's union is pushing for a raise of about 8 percent. AFSCME Local 1180’s Mark Stodghill: "Can we win on this one? If the mayor keeps his promise, that he made to us, yes we can. The money is there, we showed that."

Tulsa city employees saw their salaries drop 2.7% in 2002, and down another 2% in '03. The wages went up 2% in 2004 and that fall employees got a one time 2% stipend. This past April wages went up another 2.7% - so most employees make the same as they did three years ago. And that's put Tulsa behind in what it pays city workers.

For every dollar they could make working somewhere else, most make 75 cents at the city. For supervisors and professional employees, it's worse - they make just 58 cents for every dollar they could make working in Wichita or Oklahoma City. For example, the wage for 911 operators is 27 percent behind other cities. Even the meter maid could make more if she worked somewhere else.

Attorneys at the city are 42% behind the market on salary and wages are depressed for everyone, from the top of city hall to the guys who inspect the sewers and make sure everything is flowing. Mark Stodghill: "It's real tough and we've really sucked it up, the employees have kept working, though morale is really low. They've kept the water slowing and the parks growing."

The union won a ruling in arbitration to get the raise they want, but its non-binding, and the mayor has put together a budget, which includes a smaller 3.5% raise to start next month. Even with that it would be the first actual increase in pay since 2001.
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