Cleveland Water Workers Ink 3-Yr. Deal
The 58 members of Ohio Local 270 working at Cleveland Water recently ratified a new three-year contract with the city that includes annual raises, increases in clothing and tool allowances, improvements in pay for North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certifications, increased life insurance, and more.
Significantly, the contract, which runs from April 1, 2019-March 31, 2022, includes no increases in medical, dental or vision coverage for members.
The Cleveland Water workers voted to affiliate with the UWUA in 2017 because they were tired of being taken advantage of and the lack of representation by their independent union. Since joining Local 270, they have benefited from being part of the UWUA National Union and the power that comes with it.
“The more members you have the better you are,” says Jess Appleby, chair of the local’s Water Division. A building engineer with previous experience in the building trades, Appleby knows, “Unions are only as strong as their members. Everybody has to work together because we are only as strong as the weakest link.”
Appleby started working at Cleveland Water at the same time the independent union was affiliating with the UWUA. “I don’t know how bad it was before,” he says, continuing, “One member told me that the other union never helped her like the Utility Workers are helping her now. We are well represented now.”
Local 270 President Frank Meznarich agrees, “The UWUA takes pride in representing every member and going the extra mile to ensure their rights are respected and their contracts are enforced.”
MA Municipal Workers Join UWUA
East Longmeadow Affiliation Brings Power!
“It was time for a change, that’s why we chose to affiliate with the UWUA,” explains Nicholas Gioiosi, the leader of an independent union representing Department of Public Works employees in East Longmeadow, MA. “We were looking for stronger representation and, so far, it’s working,” he says, adding, “We’re getting more respect now.”
Gioiosi and his 30-plus co-workers will soon be rewarded for their decision to join the UWUA with the National Union’s newest charter, Local 169. They work in water and sewer, highway construction, maintenance, and other jobs to keep the town running smoothly.
“We had a local lawyer who was representing us,” Gioiosi says. “It was hard having a guy who lives in town and pays taxes negotiate with the town for our raises. It’s good to have union representatives who are only here for us and are not compromised by relationships they might have here.”
East Longmeadow, MA is located near the Berkshire Mountains.
Local 477-W Members Win Big at Highland County Water
Members of UWUA Local 477-W at Highland County Water Co. successfully defeated management demands for punishing concessions from hourly employees, and instead nailed down big wage gains during negotiations completed in November.
Hourly employees at the rural southern Ohio water utility continued working under an expired contract since August 2019, while pushing back against unfair demands for concessions. The company’s demands included elimination of arbitration from the contract, stripping away all restrictions on subcontracting of members’ work, and even taking away company-provided uniforms from these essential, front-line workers.
15-month fightback pays off
After standing firm for more than a year, however, UWUA members successfully pressed management to drop every one of its demands for takeaways. Local 477-W also secured a substantial wage package. The wage increase for 2020 alone amounts to an approximately 10% increase in hourly wages, not including a $2,500 bonus.
The company also agreed to continue the existing healthcare plan with no concessions, and to increase a weekly benefit for workers required to be on-call for overtime work.
“This win is one more example of the commitment of the Utility Workers Union of America to go to bat for any of our smaller local unions under unfair attack, just as we do every day for all UWUA members,” stated Senior National Representative Kelly Cooper, who led contract negotiations.
Local 477-W members voted to ratify the new union contract by an overwhelming margin on November 24.
Highland County Water serves roughly 11,000 customers in five rural counties around Hillsboro, Ohio. Local 477-W has represented hourly employees at the company for decades. Although small in number, 12 bargaining unit employees, UWUA members at the company do not shy away from standing up for their rights.
Negotiations for a new contract in 2019 bogged down over company demands for irrational concessions, most crucially to eliminate arbitration from the grievance procedure. That proposal resulted from management’s ham-fisted response to a union victory three years earlier, when Local 477-W won an arbitration award that overturned the company’s unfair discharge of local union president Brian Burba, ordering his reinstatement with full backpay.
Unwilling to buckle under to management’s demands to cripple the grievance procedure, UWUA members at the company instead dug in for a long fight to protect their union contract.
Unprecedented corporate reform battle
The gains made by Local 477-W came on the heels of a successful grassroots campaign supported by the UWUA National Union to elect three new candidates to the company’s board of directors, defeating three management-backed incumbent directors in the process.
Highland County Water is a non-profit corporation, with its customers serving as the company’s owners with the right to elect corporate directors every year. At this year’s annual meeting on October 15, the newly formed Members Committee for a Better Highland County Water Company swept all three director positions up for election.
A majority of the voters at the meeting also adopted two reforms to the company’s bylaws that will make it much easier for customers to elect independent directors in the future.
Greg Jones, one of the winning candidates for director, is also a member of Local 175 from nearby Dayton Power and Light.
“I am pleased by the support we gained from the company’s customers in this election,” stated Jones. “I look forward to working with the new board of directors to make Highland County Water a better company, both for its customers and for its hourly employees.”