Region IV Local Reports

Officers Report 2015, Part 7

As a result of the 2010 elections, Michigan quickly became a state hostile to working people and union members specifically. In December of 2012, Michigan became the 24th State to enact so-called “Right to Work” legislation for both public employee unions and private industry unions. But the assault on working families and in particular, public employee working families did not stop there. For the members who work under a public employer collective bargaining agreement in Michigan, their ability to secure good contracts was significantly hampered by the Michigan Legislature. Now, according to state law, health care costs for employers are capped, and excesses to those costs are passed 100% to employees, contracts must be ratified by their expiration date, or significant financial costs are passed on and step increases are forgone. No longer can wages and the like be retroactively applied in the event a contract goes past its expiration date. This can leave very little incentive for public employers to work with union bargaining committees in reaching a fair contract. In spite of these setbacks, and Michigan’s slowly rebounding economy, public sector UWUA locals have been working to overcome employer cost shifts since 2010.

Michigan State Utility Workers Council (MSUWC)

The Michigan legislature is now considering bills to repeal prevailing wage laws; preempt local governments from establishing any ordinance that regulates employer-employee relationships, living wage or paid sick time that is better than what is in state law; and requiring public employee unions to re-certify as the exclusive bargaining agent every two years.

In preparation for the membership falling under the right-to-work law, as a result of new contracts being negotiated during 2014 and 2015, the MSUWC, with the help of National legal counsel, has obtained new dues check-off cards for all current members. The card more clearly defines the member’s rights under the right-to-work legislation, but also confines the period of time during which a member or non-member can opt out of paying dues. The state law allows for a member to opt out of membership at any time. Federal law governing dues check-off allows for an annual window of opportunity to opt out of paying dues, related to the date on which the dues check-off card was signed. A member could opt out of union membership, but still be required to pay dues as called for on the dues check-off agreement they signed, unless they opt out within the window of time provided.

In order to encourage members to sign new dues check-off cards, the council has begun providing annual membership cards signifying that the member is in good standing for the year in question. The membership cards are similar to those offered by the National; however, the council found it more cost effective to purchase a card printer and print the cards in-house. The new membership cards have proven to be a big hit with the members and have helped with the gathering of new dues check-off cards.

Negotiations over the Midland Co-Generation Venture (MCV) contract began in early January 2014. The company chose to utilize an antiunion outside legal counsel as its lead spokesmen. As the MSUWC feared, this meant a completely different approach to contract negotiations for the MCV contract. The union’s negotiating team, which was a combination of the Local 564 Executive Board and the Council Executive Board, held strong throughout a tough ten days of negotiations and secured the following:

  • 5-year contract, 2% per year wage increase
  • Establishment of two new classifications – Plant Operator II and Entry Operator
  • Reduction in Plant Operator wage – all current Plant Operators made Plant Operator I
  • Eliminated current starting and standard rate for four classifications
  • Protected overtime
  • Protected union business requested and approved; strengthened language regarding 401k, DCCP, and Retiree Healthcare Account

In July of 2014, the council entered into negotiations with Marysville Ethanol management for the contract expiring on September 1, 2014. Unlike the MCV negotiations, Marysville Ethanol negotiations went very smoothly, with the union winning significant gains. The contract highlights are as follows:

  • 7-year contract
  • Minimal healthcare premium copay
  • Wage increases range from 20-30% over term of agreement
  • Additional 1.5% into 401k
  • Addition of vacation schedule
  • On-call and minimum call-out pay

On December 18, 2014 a NLRB election was held to determine whether the UWUA would be the exclusive bargaining agent of 18 operating and maintenance employees at the Jackson Michigan Juniper Gas Generating Plant. The vote was 18 yes and 0 no. The plant is in the process of being purchased by Consumers Energy and will change hands in December 2015. The membership is employed by NAES, a contract operating company and it is Consumers Energy’s intention to offer employment to the 18 operating and maintenance employees. The council is in the process of determining whether to put any effort into negotiating with NAES or waiting for the sale to be complete and negotiating with Consumers Energy.

With the Consumers Energy OM&C contract set to expire in June 2015, the council agreed to enter into early negotiations with Consumers Energy utilizing a mutual gains bargaining (MGB) approach. The MGB process allows for the involvement of more members in the development of options aimed at resolving one party or the other’s issues.

As a result, four joint option teams were put in place, made up of members of management and local presidents within the council. The option teams included one gas team, two electric teams and a generation team. Additionally, there was a data team that was focused on validating any numbers utilized throughout the process. The result of these negotiations was significant, and a new 5-year contract ( June 2015 – June 2020) with Consumers Energy was ratified overwhelmingly by the membership by April. The contents of this contract include, among other things:

  • 3% general wage increase for each year of the agreement, with the existing COLA folded into the base rate and a yearly COLA true-up
  • A guarantee of percentage of work to MSUWC members/classifications covered under the contract
  • Gas and Electric Field – 85% Generation Maintenance 80% by contact term
  • Generation Operations and Fuel Supply 100%, including new emissions equipment
  • Increase in night shift premium and Saturday and Sunday premiums
  • Increase in per diem and per day in lieu of board
  • Increase in on-call pay
  • Increase in clothing allowance
  • Bonus for storm response
  • Health care PPO plan from 85% to 80% with caps on weekly employee contributions
  • Medicare exchange account for Medicare retirees beginning last year of the contract
  • 100% pension survivor benefit after age 55 for deceased actives
  • Increase in employer 401(k) match
  • Increase in life insurance
  • Establishment of generating plant 12-hour rotating shift schedule as a pilot at selected plants

After much negotiation, the council reached an agreement with the company in 2012 for the re-establishment of an underground construction group to supplement the gas distribution and transmission and storage in new construction. With negotiations completed on wages, work schedules and classification rates, several hundred new members have been added, and the council and the UWUA taking on the necessary training.

As a result of some forward thinking language in the 2010 Consumers Energy contract, the council was able to sign an agreement establishing job titles, job descriptions and wage rates for the first of Consumers two planned wind farms. The agreement marks the UWUA’s first represented wind farm, and will expand into a second wind farm, already under construction, in 2016.

The MSUWC Political Action Committee (PAC) fund participation has increased since 2010 from 3% to 20% of the membership, with similar increases in participation in the National’s COPE fund.

Local 18007, IL

In 2013, Local 18007 secured a new five-year term for their members, with close to a 16% wage increase over the course of the new deal. Through tireless work by the local and Business Manager Rick Passarelli, they were able to secure jobs for more than 100 veterans through the UMAP program. This program gives veterans returning from active duty a secure job with Peoples Gas. The local was also able to secure the defined benefit pension plan until at least 2020. The main replacement program has been in full effect, and Local 18007 members have retired several miles of cast iron gas main.

In late 2010, the local organized Osmose, which works exclusively in Illinois for Exelon, doing pole integrity checks. They have more than forty year-round employees under a four-year contract, which is worth close to 10% over the course of the contract.

Local 223, MI

In March 2013, Local 223 successfully negotiated a new 4-year agreement for its members employed by DTE Energy. The agreement, which was overwhelmingly ratified by the local membership included the following provisions:

  • 3% wage increase each year of the contract with additional two lump sum payments
  • Health care maintained with reduction of spousal surcharge
  • 401(k) improvements
  • Change from employer provide post-65 health care coverage to an annual subsidy for a Retirement Reimbursement Account with inflation adjustment for Medicare wrap around coverage
  • New hire employer contribution into a 401(k) plan
  • Increase in employer contribution into VEBA plan accounts

In November, 2013, members employed by Detroit Thermal ratified a 5-year agreement. Some of the contractual highlights are as follows:

2014 – $750 signing bonus and $.50 hourly pay increase

2015 – $.25 hourly pay increase

2016 – $1,000 lump sum payment for all

2017 – $.50 hourly pay increase

2014 was a busy year for Local 223, with numerous contracts negotiated and successfully ratified. Members at Hamtramck Energy Services ratified a 5-year contract with lump sum increases won each year of the agreement. Supervisory members employed by the City of Port Huron won a 3-year agreement with lump sum payments throughout the term of the contract and improvement in dental coverage. Members employed by Citizens Gas Fuel Company were rolled under the Local 223 – DTE contract, with wage improvements and retiree health care contributions enhanced. Finally, in 2014, after several years of negotiations, Local 223 successfully brought a number of its members jointly employed by DTE and the Bartech Company into its contract with DTE Energy.

In 2015, Local 223 successfully negotiated a 5-year agreement with East China, LLC which included wage increases and a signing bonus; the local also added 24 licensed operators from the Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Plant under a new contract. The local negotiated a new 2-year agreement for its DECON members at Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Plant employed by Bartlett Nuclear, which included a 3% wage increase.

In May of 2014, Local 223 membership approved new constitution and by-law changes.

Over the past several years, Local 223 has provided educational workshops open to all members. These workshops have included topics such as:

  • How the National Labor Relations Act works and how to investigate/ file a charge
  • Discipline and Discharge
  • Just Cause provisions
  • How to file and win a Past Practice grievance
  • How to research and file a grievance
  • Understanding Michigan’s Workers Compensation laws
  • Tools for being a union leader in a “Right-to-Work” state

Local 335, MO

One-year contract extension with a 2.25% wage increase. Set to expire in October 2015.

Local 398, MO

In June 2014, Local 398 was scheduled to come off of a five-year contract. Instead, Black River Electrical Co- Operative offered a five-year contract extension with close to a 15% wage increase. It was ratified by the members. The new expiration date will be June 2020.

Local 405, IL

One-year contract extension with a 2.25% wage increase, set to expire in June 2017.

Local 413, MI

Local 413 secured a two-year agreement in March of 2013, with a 2.5% wage increase. The local union and the employer are currently in contract negotiations for a renewal agreement.

Local 445, MI

In August 2014, Local 445 successfully ratified a new three-year deal, which provides for job growth for Local 445 members. There were some improvements made on issues such as pension, healthcare, and job bidding. The local also won an arbitration victory, which brought back a long-time member.

Local 455, MO

One-year contract extension with a 2.25% wage increase, set to expire in June 2018.

Local 467, IL

At the end of 2014, Local 467 ratified a new four-year contract with Aqua Illinois, with no significant takeaways. There were changes to their call out procedure to ensure that UWUA members would be utilized instead of outside contractors.

Local 482, MI

In April of 2012, Local 482 reached a four-year contract with the City of Bay City, which included a 2% wage improvement in June of 2015, predicated on an increase in the City’s General Fund balance (revenue increase).

Locals 488, 504, 531, MI

In June 2012, Locals 488, 504 and 531 secured a one-year agreement with the Detroit Water and Sewer Department that included significant contract language changes mandated by a federal court decree that resulted in the reorganization of the Water and Sewer Department. The Detroit Water and Sewer Department had been under federal oversight for a number of years. The Water and Sewer Department is an organizational department of the City of Detroit. At the time of the contract agreement, most other local unions affiliated with other international unions that had contracts with the city saw their contracts nullified by the city and the state. None of the UWUA locals were subject to wage cuts or other imposed concessions other than those of the Federal Judge orders and their contracts remained intact. In March 2013, Local 488, 504 and 531 entered into a new three-year agreement with the Water and Sewer Department. Also in March 2013, the State of Michigan declared a financial emergency for the City of Detroit and appointed an “Emergency Financial Manager” (EFM) pursuant to Michigan Public Act 436. On July 18, 2013, the City of Detroit declared bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in U. S. history.

On July 31, 2013, the Emergency Financial Manager appointed to oversee Detroit’s bankruptcy and reorganization ordered a suspension of bargaining by operation of law. Since UWUA Locals 488, 504 and 531 had unexpired collective bargaining agreements, the department stated that it would honor the terms and conditions of those contracts, with the exception of terms and conditions that have been under the authority of the federal court overseeing the city’s bankruptcy proceedings. The bankruptcy proceedings and the resultant settlement agreement have significantly affected UWUA member’s active and retiree health care benefits and pension benefits.

In January 2015, the City of Detroit emerged from bankruptcy proceedings, but department reorganization as mandated by the federal judge overseeing the Water and Sewer Department prior to the bankruptcy is ongoing. Although, there have been no wage concessions implemented by the department on UWUA locals and their membership (which is significant in itself ), the UWUA and the Water and Sewer Department have been at odds over benefit issues that have come out of the reorganization.

In August 2014, the department indicated that it was unilaterally transferring membership of Local 488 and 531 (UWUA asserts illegally) out of their respective local unions and into other international unions or non-represented positions. The UWUA has filed charges of unfair labor practices with the State of Michigan. The state has so far refused to act on these charges citing that the matter is under a clarification of order request by the Detroit Water and Sewer Department back to the federal judge who had oversight authority before the State appointed the Emergency Financial Manager.

Note: The City of Detroit’s bankruptcy was driven by a severe decline in revenues (and, importantly, not an increase in obligations to fund pensions). Depopulation and long-term unemployment due to loss of manufacturing caused Detroit’s property and income tax revenues to plummet. The State of Michigan exacerbated the problems by slashing revenue it shared with the city. The city’s overall expenses have declined over the last five years, although its financial expenses have increased. In addition, Wall Street sold risky financial instruments to the city.

Local 500, IL

One-year contract extension with a 2.25% wage increase, set to expire in December 2015.

Local 517, MI

In December 2014, Local 517 reached agreement with the Monroe County Drain Commission for a new three-year agreement after over a year of contract negotiations. The final agreement included lump sum payments of $1,000 per year of the contract and a signing bonus. Improvements were made in clothing allowance, certification pay and the grievance procedure.

Local 525, IA

Contract set to expire in 2017, with extension pending.

Local 526, IA

One-year contract extension with a 2.25% wage increase, set to expire July 2016.

Local 532, MI

In June 2014, Local 532 successfully reached a three-year contract with the City of Port Huron, which included 2% wage improvement as well as significant certification and classification rate improvements. The Local was also able to reach agreement with the city on keeping health care cost sharing in check for the life of the agreement. In June 2014, the local also reached agreement with the City of Port Huron Housing Commission on a three-year contract which included 2% wage improvements per year and improvements in working conditions and restrictions on the use of temporary employees.

Local 533, MI

In June 2012, Local 533 negotiated a new three-year contract with the City of Croswell, Michigan. The agreement did not realize any wage improvement, however the agreement does provide for significant employer contributions to employee health care. Being a public employer, by state statute, the city council voted by two-thirds majority to opt out of the health care limitations imposed by the state, thereby maintaining employee health care at previous benefit levels. The local is in contract negotiations for a new agreement.

Local 541, MI

After having lived through austerity measures due to revenue shortfalls imposed by the City of Bay City, Michigan, Local 541 (Supervisory Unit) reached a three-year agreement in August of 2014. The agreement included a wage improvement of 5.5% over the life of the agreement, partially offset by employee pension contribution increases. Improvements in step-up and work-out-of- classification were made as well as reinstatement of previously suspended wage collaterals.

Local 542, MI

After having lived through austerity measures due to revenue shortfalls imposed by the City of Bay City, Michigan, Local 542 reached a threeyear agreement with the city in August of 2014. The agreement included wage improvement of 4.5% over the life of the contract and reinstatement of several monetary benefits that had been suspended. The contract also saw improvements in certification pay, promotional language, and restrictions on supervisors working. After protracted and difficult negotiations, Local 542 secured a three-year agreement with FinancialEdge Community Credit Union in September 2013, that included 2.75% wage increases and step-up pay improvement.

Local 543, MI

In May 2014, after over two years of bargaining including almost a year of state mediated bargaining, Local 543 successfully concluded very difficult contract negotiations with the Monroe County Road Commission for a new two-year agreement. The contract includes two lump sum payments and relief of significant health care cost sharing that members were experiencing as a result of state law implementation.

Local 640, IL & FL

One-year contract extension with a 2.25% wage increase for Alton, IL, Call Center employees, set to expire October 2015. Contract for Pensacola, FL, Call Center employees set to expire in October 2015, with extension pending.

Utility Lines Construction Company, Hydaker-Wheatlake Company – Transmission Trades

In September 2014, the UWUA Transmission Trades bargaining unit and the Utility Lines Construction Company (ULCS) entered into a four-year agreement, which included 7% wage improvement, increased employer contribution to the UWUA Health and Welfare Fund, increased employer match to the 401(k) plan, and additional personal time among other items. In July 2014, the UWUA Transmission Trades bargaining unit and the Hydaker-Wheatlake Company reached agreement on a four-year agreement which included a 9% wage improvement, vacation improvement, increased employer contribution to the UWUA Health and Welfare Fund, the establishment of a UWUA Retiree Health Reimbursement Arrangement (RHRA) and a lay-off provision among other items.

In January 2015, the UWUA was informed that contract that Hydaker-Wheatlake had with the International Transmission Company (ITC) to provide warehousing and logistical services was not going to be renewed effective March 2015. This affected the entire UWUA membership employed by Hydaker-Wheatlake. ULCS picked up the work performed by Hydaker-Wheatlake, and subsequently, the UWUA entered into an accretion style Letter of Understanding transferring all affected UWUA Hydaker-Wheatlake employees to ULCS under the UWUA/ULCS contract, with no loss of seniority or pay.

Legislative/Regulatory Activity

In March 2015, the UWUA provided policy recommendations for the Michigan House Energy Committee to consider as it moves forward with consideration of new energy legislation, including consideration of the effects of the Clean Power Plan.

In April 2015, the UWUA provided written and oral testimony to the Michigan House Energy Committee on the benefits to all classes of customers with regard to pricing, consistency for planning and reliability for returning Michigan to a fully regulated state.