UWUA members working for Indiana Borough, a municipality about two hours east of Pittsburgh, started 2022 off with a great start. At its January 3 meeting, the borough council appointed a new borough manager, and within days had inked a new contract with its parking, street crew, wastewater and office workers — all members of UWUA Local 580 — who had been working without a contract for two years.
“We’re very happy, and very relieved, to have a new contract,” said Local 580 President Denise Brudnock. “It was a long, hard struggle, but we stayed united and achieved our priorities in the end.” The new agreement keeps health care costs in check, with no increase in out-of-pocket costs over the five-year term. Wage increases are substantial: a bonus to cover retroactive pay, 3.5% increase for 2022, 4.5% for 2023, and 2024’s increase will be somewhere between 3% and 4.5%, depending on CPI. An important new contract benchmark sets a floor of 3% for annual wage increases — even if CPI falls below that level (and likewise, a cap of 4.5%).
Since the expiration of the prior agreement at year-end 2019, members had been frustrated by lack of progress at the bargaining table. The former borough manager and its outside counsel had caused repeated delays and didn’t appear ready to find a resolution, according to Brudnock. “There was a real lack of communication. We had trouble getting them to commit to bargaining dates, and in the rare instances when we would come together there was a lot of one-sided pushing paper across the table, with none of the usual back and forth that leads to progress.” Not only that, about a year ago, the borough attempted to impose a change in health benefits. Local 580 immediately filed an unfair labor practice, which was ruled in the union’s favor.
After a single bargaining session with the borough’s new management team, workers walked away with a tentative agreement and were soon celebrating their ratification vote. This fight demonstrated Local 580 members’ solidarity paid off and resulted in a solid contract moving forward.