As Union Professionals Continue to Rise, Organizing Opportunities Abound
The number of professional and technical employees who are members of unions continued to rise over the past year and reached a record high in 2018, according to data analyzed by the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO.
Over six million professionals are now part of the labor movement, a growth of over 800,000 in the last 15 years.
This growth comes as more people are now employed in specialized professional and technical jobs than ever before, including in the utility industry. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of utility jobs that can be classified as professional or technical has increased by seven percent to 38.2%.
“This is good news for our union,” says UWUA President Mike Langford. “We represent utility workers in all job classifications and are well positioned to organize the growing number of professional and technical workers into our union. As the utility industry continues to transform to incorporate more renewable energy sources and new technologies, it is likely that professional employment will continue to rise as well.”
New Contracts Bring Gains and Members to Local 609 in Right-to-Work States
Local 609 recently negotiated new contracts with the Northern Pipeline Construction Company (NPL) for workers in Texas and Oklahoma that include annual raises, paid time off, and, maybe most importantly, better health care coverage with no monthly premiums, thanks to the UWUA National Health and Welfare Fund.
“NPL was looking for a better health and welfare benefits package and our Organizing Director, Bob Houser, suggested they take a look at what the UWUA has to offer,” says UWUA Executive Vice President Steven VanSlooten. “Our benefits are so much better than what they had. It’s satisfying to know that these members are getting better health care coverage and don’t have to pay premiums.”
Local 609 negotiated to get NPL employees covered by the Fund starting January 1, 2019. Since inking the agreement, hundreds of NPL workers have signed union cards in the right-to-work states of Texas and Oklahoma.
In right-to-work states, workers who are covered by a union contract can opt out of paying dues without losing the benefits of the contract. But if they do, they give up their right to participate in union activities.
“When we negotiated for much better benefits through the union health plan, hundreds of guys jumped on board and signed union cards because they want to have a voice in the union,” says Local 609 President Renard Jowers. “They’ve seen what we’ve been doing with grievances and arbitrations and making sure we hold the company accountable. We showed them that the union is there to get better working conditions, better benefits, and to improve lives outside of work.”
The UWUA benefits include health care, with no co-insurance payments, eye care, dental, life insurance, and disability coverage. Local 609 has negotiated for these benefits for workers covered by its contracts in five states.
NJ Local 601 Wins 1st Atlantic City Contact Center Contract
It was a long time coming, but when NJ Local 601successfully inked its first contract with the Atlantic City Contact Center as 2018 came to a close, workers there celebrated.
By a vote of 49-8, call center workers ratified their contract and now have the protections a UWUA collective bargaining agreement brings. The two-year agreement includes wage increases, health and welfare benefits, paid time off (sick days, holidays, personal days), a grievance procedure and more. Most importantly it gives call center workers a voice at work!
“We achieved our first contract with the Atlantic City Call Center through partnership and good faith bargaining since day one,” says Local 601 President Noel Christmas. “It has taken a long time since we organized this group in 2015, but from this point forward, through dedicated commitment to our members and a good relationship with the employer, as time passes we look to improve on our collective bargaining agreement with the employer,” he added.
The unit was organized through a neutrality agreement with the employer that included access to the property and card check recognition.
The call center recently received work from PSE&G and is in the process of hiring an additional 100 employees, with plans to expand to a potential 1,000 employees by the time the contract expires in 2020. Utility calls now account for 90% of the work.
Important language was won in bargaining to protect work from going overseas, a major concern for call center workers. Under Scope of Work, Article 2.3 reads, “All utility work (calls) will not go overseas (out of the United States).”