American Water Benefits Agreement Inked
More than 3,000 members of the UWUA and eight other unions ratified a National Benefits Agreement with American Water on July 31. It includes improvements to healthcare, retirement, and other benefits for nearly 70 bargaining units in 15 states across the U.S.
The national agreement is negotiated by a coalition of eight unions led by the UWUA.
The five-year agreement builds on the work of an innovative joint labor-management committee providing the UWUA with an equal voice with management to monitor healthcare quality and costs. As a result, going into negotiations, there was a clear understanding of what needed to get done.
“At the start of benefits negotiations we put the company on notice that we needed to make significant gains for our membership. That we were not interested in going backwards. And we accomplished that,” said UWUA President Mike Langford. “This agreement is a testament to the company’s commitment to work with the unions to make sure their employees have what they need in terms of a benefits package.”
The UWUA represents the largest number of American Water bargaining units and 2,200 of the company’s 6,500 employees. Other unions covered by the agreement include IBEW, Laborers, Operating Engineers, Plumbers & Pipefitters, SEIU, Steelworkers, and UFCW.
Improvements overwhelmingly approved
A remarkable 83% of members voted in favor of the settlement.
“It was clear that the company came to the table with a desire to work together to achieve a contract,” said UWUA Local 423 President Mike Esposito. “Our members have given us good feedback on what we’ve negotiated and I am confident the benefit improvements will help them out.”
Among the benefit improvements are:
• A three-year freeze on the percentage of cost share for monthly health care premiums with an increase of only 1% in the fourth year.
• The addition of a new health care plan at a lower cost that includes a Health Savings Account (HSA).
• “Unbundling” of medical, dental and vision plans to offer the ability to choose plans to meet needs.
• Enhanced coverage for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) treatments for autism including speech therapy, along with other new benefits.
• Improved employee stock purchase to 15%.
In addition, UWUA negotiators succeeded in securing inclusion into the company’s bonus plan, giving members the opportunity to share in the profits.
“Beginning August 1, when the company does better, we get a bonus,” explains Local 335 President Allan Bathon.
Part of the bonus is based on safety performance. “Now that American Water is part of the UWUA Power for America Training Trust’s peer-to-peer program, we are more involved with safety than ever before,” Bathon says.