Okaloosa County employees want to form a union

Okaloosa County workers say they want safer working conditions, higher wages, and better healthcare. (WJHG/WECP)

OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Workers in Okaloosa County are organizing to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union.

"A lot of workers are really struggling, and these are the folks that do the hard work of making sure Okaloosa county functions," said Kelly Benjamin, Communications Director for AFSCME.

They say they want a union because they want safer work environments, fair wages, and better healthcare.

"There's been cases where workers are exposed to toxic parcels like asbestos, to dust… workers have had to provide their own safety gear including masks and things like that," said Benjamin. "We would like to sit down across from Okaloosa County and be able to have a voice on the job."

The Okaloosa County Commission's Public Information Officer, Christopher Saul, says county leaders would also like to sit down with their employees.

"The first thing we want to let everybody know is how proud we are of our county employees, of all the hard work they do. I mean just looking at even the recent paint job we've had in here, they do great work, and so when it comes to stuff like that, we know that that's their right to look into stuff like unions, and of course we encourage them to get all the facts before making any sort of decision," said Saul.

The next step - eligible county employees have to apply for PERC, the Public Employee’s Relations Commission.

Then PERC will let Okaloosa County know what to do after that.

But Saul says that has not happened yet.

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