Perseverance and Unity Pay Off for Members in Regions II and III

Over the past several months members in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania have negotiated and ratified new agreements that raise member wages and standards and ensure job security for the coming years.

Long process, big gains at Local 540

Members at Local 540 in Cranberry Township, PA, negotiated for nearly a year before ratifying a new agreement in July.

Local 540 negotiating committee members Joe Reich, Jim McConnell, and Joe Brown

“We started negotiations last August, and it was a tough fight,” Local 540 President Jim McConnell said. Members rejected three township offers before ultimately reaching an agreement. Pay and health benefits were big hurdles. “The township didn’t want to pay and kept pushing for workers to take on a bigger share of health benefit costs.”

Members work in the township’s water and sewer operations, running its main sewerage plant, a water pumping station and four lift sewerage stations.

With rising costs of living, pay was the top priority. McConnell worked with committee members Joe Brown and Joe Reich to keep the process moving and members focused. At the June 9 session, they had an answer ready when the township asked what it would take to reach a settlement: retroactivity. The township agreed to six months of back pay even though it had previously balked at the idea, and a tentative deal was signed.

The three-year agreement runs from Jan. 1, 2022, through Dec. 31, 2024. It includes 3% increases in each year and significant improvements in the progressions schedule for 4 of the local’s newer members. At signing, one got $3,700, another $2,700 and two each received $3,200.

With this contract behind him, McConnell is looking forward to his retirement later this year. He, along with Ed Mazur, are the only two members left of the original group that organized what was then a municipal water authority back in 1980. In 2000, Cranberry Township became the members’ employer. The township is located north of Pittsburgh and has experienced explosive growth in recent decades. “It’s a much different place today than it was we first organized,” McConnell said.

Negotiating his final contract was tough, but McConnell was heartened by the members’ unity. “It was most definitely a group effort. We stuck together.”

North Canton water workers reach new deals

Water workers in North Canton, Ohio, ratified two contract renewals this summer. Local 605 represents six workers at the city’s water plant and 27 service workers who do the field work related to water distribution, such as line maintenance and repair and road work. They have separate collective bargaining agreements, but both sought the same priority of increased pay.

Local 605 President Dan Richards was pleased to report that they wrapped up new agreements for both units after only two negotiating sessions. He credits a good relationship between the local and the city’s current administration and help from National staff: “Frank Meznarich did a great job of guiding us through the process. He, along with Rich Cossell, were there with us every step of the way.”

Bargaining was also streamlined because health and pension benefits were off the table. They are negotiated separately in city-wide bargaining with all municipal unions and were already locked in until 2024.

Both units won 3% annual increases, and the field service unit sought, and won, the incorporation of stipend pay into hourly rates. Prior service contracts had included stipend pay, but it was treated more like a one-time bonus and kept separate from hourly rates. Field members Dylan Harshaw and Brian Kehner served on the negotiating committee and made the change a priority because it will mean higher base pay rates for any future benefit accruals that are computed off the hourly pay rate.

The new service agreement runs from May 1, 2022, through April 30, 2025; the plant worker’s contract is July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2025.

Big pay increases at Local 578A

Members at Local 578A who do road work in Nimishillen Township, just east of North Canton, won significant pay gains in their new contract.

The three-year agreement runs through July 31, 2025, and includes two first year pay bumps: an 8% raise and a 6% equity pay adjustment. Years two and three both include 4% wage increases. All members also will receive an increased safety allowance. Under the new agreement, “full-time road superintendent” is now a union position with a $4/hr differential. The assistant road superintendent will be paid a $2/hr differential when the full-time superintendent is off.