Field employees at Liberty Gas in Georgia celebrated a historic milestone in mid-July—the ratification of their first-ever UWUA contract. The culmination of months of determination, negotiation, and perseverance, the three-year agreement, set to expire in March 2026, marks a transformative chapter for the Liberty Gas workforce.
The journey began when approximately 70 field and customer service workers made the decision to join UWUA’s ranks last October and soon after began preparations for negotiating their first contract. The path to triumph was not without its challenges, however, and Liberty Gas members faced unique hurdles. The nearest UWUA local is located hundreds of miles away in Tennessee, and Liberty’s workers are in two locations, Gainesville and Columbus, that are hours apart from each other.
The solution was to establish a new charter, giving rise to the birth of Georgia Local 607. Senior National Representative Rich Cossell oversaw the process of electing officers so that a bargaining committee could form and negotiations commence. The local’s officers are Chris Wynn, president; Jason St. Ours, secretary-treasurer; Patrick O’Connor, vice president (Gainesville); and Ian Service, vice president (Columbus).
The Local 607 committee focused bargaining on the same priorities that had initially driven the members to form a union: pay and fair grievance representation. They drew upon existing UWUA contracts with Liberty Gas in New York and Massachusetts to help bring compensation up to industry standards.
According to Service, “Pay was the biggest issue for members, and we locked in major gains in hourly rates, overtime, and more.” The wage adjustments serve as a critical step toward addressing employee retention — a persistent challenge for Liberty in both the field and customer service arenas.
Subject matter experts were brought in to help the committee refine the classification and scheduling system and provide guidance on eliminating the company’s practice of dual role at the Gainesville location. The agreement also includes a union-safety committee, composed of two members from each location, that promises to elevate safety standards through UWUA-provided training.
Negotiations moved forward over roughly 12 sessions between March and July. “So much of Liberty’s national workforce is already union, and I think it was in corporate’s best interest to get a deal done with us and move on,” said St. Ours.
Both Service and St. Ours were surprised by how quickly the first field service contract was settled. “We had heard stories about how long it could take, but that wasn’t our experience. The process was more cordial than we expected,” Service said.
Importantly, the quick turnaround and impressive results have changed the mindsets of some Liberty workers who had voted against the union last fall. St. Ours shared, “With how quickly we got it done and what we achieved, we’ve won over some of the initial naysayers, and they’ve asked to sign cards.”
The committee is in the process of finalizing a separate agreement for Liberty’s customer service employees and expects to see similarly impressive results.
As the journey towards equitable representation and working conditions continues, the success story of UWUA members at Liberty Gas stands as a testament to the power of unity and determination. This victory signals not only a brighter future for the Liberty Gas workforce but also serves as an inspiring blueprint for the labor movement.