UWUA Local 51 Wins New Benefits for Roswell Employees

UWUA Local 51 members in Roswell, NM, recently won unscheduled bonus payments and new benefits for blue-collar employees of the City of Roswell, following a months-long battle over a bare-bones budget imposed by the city council in July 2023.

Shortly after council members adopted the surprise austerity budget — citing exaggerated woes in the city’s finances — Local 51 leaders adopted a two-part strategy to win additional income for employees over the meager 1% raise provided in the budget.

Mobilizing UWUA members at work and the ballot box

First, local officers organized rank-and-file union workers to turn out for city council meetings, hammering home the hardships imposed on family budgets by the unfair cuts – especially given last year’s record spike in inflation. As the Roswell Daily Record reported, “an array of UWUA members and representatives have been appearing frequently at council and committee meetings” to press for improvements for city workers.

At meeting after meeting, UWUA members repeatedly challenged the city council’s failure to provide living wages for dedicated Roswell employees, connecting this directly to the city’s ongoing inability to retain the skilled workforce necessary to deliver quality services to residents.

Simultaneously, Local 51 also launched a campaign to elect worker-friendly candidates to the city council in the November 2023 elections. Local members and supporters knocked on doors throughout Roswell, urging union voters to support labor’s endorsed candidates. UWUA activists across the country also pitched in with phone banks to help turn out the vote.

The effort paid off. In November, Roswell’s union voters helped win four of the five city council seats on the ballot.

New agreement ratified

Shortly after the election, city management negotiated with Local 51 for a new memorandum of agreement providing additional pay and benefits for UWUA-represented employees.

Under the MOA, employees with at least five years of service received $1,500 in cash “retention bonuses.” Other unit employees received bonuses of $750, $500, or $250, depending on their length of service. The agreement also provided additional tangible benefits for workers, including free passes for city recreational facilities.

Meanwhile, Local 51 officers have made plans to continue pressing city council members during this year’s budget cycle to provide fair cost-of-living increases for Roswell employees.

“Roswell’s elected leaders need to reconsider their priorities to better support the workers who deliver crucial services to community residents every day,” explains Local 51 President Rene Otero. “UWUA members will make that happen when we keep showing up at city hall and turning out at the ballot box.”