In a major organizing victory, Cleveland water workers overwhelmingly voted to join the UWUA late last year and are now preparing to negotiate their first contract as members ofLocal 270.
The Cleveland workers sought out the UWUA because they were dissatisfied with the representation they were getting as members of an independent union. It was through word of mouth that they learned of the high quality of representation the UWUA gives its members.
“When they contacted us, we showed them all the water locals we have in our union,” says Local 270 President Frank Meznarich. “These guys work in the water distribution plant and they fit in with us very well. For instance, they have boiler and operator licenses very much like in our fossil fuel plants. So they decided to become part of something bigger that could better represent them.”
Of the 59 who had the opportunity to vote, 48 voted, with 43 voting for the UWUA, 4 voting for the old union and 1 casting a ballot for no representation.
The lopsided vote made clear the workers’ desire to be represented by the UWUA and came despite dozens of attempts by the independent union to stop the election.
“They were tired of being taken advantage of by the independent union and decided they wanted to go with the UWUA — an honest, straight talking, straight shooting union with a lot of power,” explains Larry Kelley, the National Organizer who worked closely with the Cleveland workers to see that they got what they wanted. “We built an effective organizing committee whose members did the legwork to bring their co-workers into the union.”
A negotiations committee is now putting together new proposals in preparation for sitting down with the city of Cleveland to negotiate a fair contract that builds on what they have.