Santa Clara Valley Water District Local 21 members demonstrate how to win a good contract campaign through union solidarity.
The contract campaign started off with an employer proposal red lined and littered with concessions. This was despite the fact that the District was not in a budget deficit, and continues to find money spend on big projects.
Our members knew that to get a better deal, we needed to stand together to demand a fair contract. Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) members did exactly that by attending solidarity actions with fellow bargaining units at Board of Directors meetings. The Board meetings were packed with Local 21 members wearing a sea of blue T-shirts. The Board knew that we were in this fight, and we were in this fight together. Without the show of union solidarity and strength, the Bargaining Team we would not have been able to win the 4-year deal that we now have.
IFPTE Local 21 Chief Negotiator Stanley Young and Local 21 members spoke before the SCVWD Board of Director’s closed sessions many times during the contract campaign, and advocated for a fair contract to our allies on the Board. We mobilized the the South Bay Labor Council to advocate for our members, which helped us politically.
Throughout the campaign, our bargaining units at SCVWD, Engineers Society (ES) and Professional Management Association (PMA), had coalition meetings with AFSCME’s bargaining team and their Union Representative. Working together in our coalition with our union brothers and sisters led to a successful 4-year contract. With the uncertainty of the economy and the upcoming Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case that will almost certainly harm unions, a four-year deal is a security that we are proud to have won.
On March 21, SCVWD Board of Director Chair Dick Santos held a special ceremony to honor the collaboration between the District and the bargaining units to settle the recent contract. We thank Chair Santos for his leadership during the negotiations along with the other Board of Directors, and CEO Norma Camacho for implementing the Board’s direction.
SCVWD Professional Management Association (PMA) members unanimously approved the new contract with a 100% Yes vote. After increasing employee payments to pension and healthcare, members will receive a 4%-plus wage raise that compounds to almost 17% by the fourth year. Our PMA Bargaining Team, along with ES’s Team, held on at least a 3-percent net gain in pay after changes to healthcare plan structures (such as higher co-pays, prescription costs and deductibles) and increases to the employees’ share of pension costs. Perks of the PMA contract include a $500 increase to deferred compensation, utilization of a 401 plan, and tuition reimbursement of $500.
SCVWD Engineers Society (ES) also received the same wage increases as PMA, the same healthcare changes and shared pension contributions, and the option to participate in another deferred compensation 401 plan that use to only apply to unclassified management. ES Members had very high ratification turnout of almost 85%, with nearly 98% of members voting yes vote to ratify the agreement. The ES bargaining team was able to also increase their professional reimbursement by $300 raising it to $600. ES also restored exempt leave back for those classifications that are exempt with 20 hours credited annually.
SCVWD is not an agency shop; this means that they do no collect fair-share fees, and only rely on the dues of union members. They are a shining example of how strength in numbers, commitment to our union, and solidarity, and not fair-share fees, are what gives us power. Our entire union will eventually be non-agency shop once the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case comes down. When the Courts make that decision, Local 21 members will have to choose between being a member, paying dues, and sticking together with our coworkers to fight for good contracts, or dropping our union membership altogether. SCVWD shows us what we can achieve when we choose union, and when we choose solidarity.