Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
press photos by douglas graves 0522 Commissioner Zakiya Smalls reacts to a comment by County Executive Phillips Armstrong. press photos by douglas graves 0522 Commissioner Zakiya Smalls reacts to a comment by County Executive Phillips Armstrong.
press photo by douglas gravesCommissioner President Amy Zanelli said she is “looking forward to trying to make the whole process smoother, more transparent and more ethical.” press photo by douglas gravesCommissioner President Amy Zanelli said she is “looking forward to trying to make the whole process smoother, more transparent and more ethical.”

Executive to do business for board

Monday, January 20, 2020 by Douglas Graves Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

The newly reorganized Board of Commissioners led by President Amy Zanelli (Democrat) quickly went through a short agenda Jan. 8.

One of its first acts was to start a roll back of the method that the previous Republican led Board had adopted which put part-time Commissioners in the negotiating room with the professional staffers as they negotiated contract for labor contracts.

The weakness of that system was highlighted last year when negotiations with the service workers union dragged out for over a year while workers went without a contract. Part of the problem according to testimony from workers at various meetings last year was that commissioners assigned as negotiators would not show up at the business meetings to negotiate. Many of commissioners have full-time careers in businesses or other areas.

Getting its first reading (final vote will at the next regular meeting) was a bill that designates the county executive as the agent of the board for labor relations and for establishing a policy for conduct of collective bargaining.

This means that the county executive will do the labor negotiating and the commissioners will then approve or disapprove of the executive’s recommendations.

Frank Gerlach, shop steward for Local 668 of the SEIU, said in a post-meeting interview that “the previous process did not work properly.”

“It’s not a matter of who you’re negotiating with, it’s how it’s done,” said Gerlach. “With this spirit of cooperation that’s going on right now between the board and the executive – any transparency between them and us we feel that it is best for all including employees, community, and taxpayers – there should be a collaboration and that’s how we hope it will be moving forward.

Also, in a post-meeting interview, the Press asked board President Amy Zanelli if she had any specific goals while the board is under her leadership.

“My most important goal for this year and take a hard look at our policies and see where we have gone wrong,” said Zanelli. “I think that is a duty of leaders to look at where they have done well where they can improve and to admit the mistakes they have made and move on to make the process better for everyone involved. That is my priority. We are on our way to changing the way we negotiate our labor contracts. That should get passed next week. I’m looking forward to trying to make the whole process smoother, more transparent and more ethical.”