Members of Ohio Local 270 ratified their first UWUA contract with the City of Berea’s water department in June. The unit of 10 water workers organized in early 2021 but faced a long road to their first contract.
“This was a tough one because both parties came to the table presenting a full contract,” Local 270 President Chris Ericksen said. UWUA presented the language included in its First Energy agreement. The city wanted its new UWUA members to accept the same terms and conditions it had in place with its non-water workers represented by other unions. Berea’s new UWUA members viewed those existing city contracts as substandard to what UWUA members at First Energy and the nearby Cleveland Water Department (also a municipal entity) previously achieved in their contracts and were determined to do better.
Throughout twelve months of negotiations, members held strong to achieve their priorities — first among them was standardized pay rates. Ericksen reported that pay was all over the map, with significant disparities. Members also sought a grievance process, uniform allowance, standardized vacations, and longevity pay.
The local’s officers, Region III National Representative Frank Meznarich, and water workers Aaron Dusky and Michael Hall endured numerous sessions but emerged victorious. “It was a long, hard haul but the payoff was worth it,” said Ericksen.
The three-year agreement, which runs through December 2024, achieved everything members wanted. Some will see a 15% to 20% pay raise this year, bringing them to parity with other workers doing the same job. All will get 3% increases in the contract’s second and third years.