Just Four Weeks After Joining UE, 250 Service Center Workers Negotiate Big Wage Gains

October 31, 2011
Bargaining committee members Bruce Webb, Sharon Bigelow, Norma Rice and Claire Boutah.

UE Local 208 has negotiated an agreement with FedConsulting, one of the contractors at the Vermont USCIS Service Center, that dramatically increases the wages of the 250 workers who came into UE only one month earlier. Just four days before the start of UE's 72nd National Convention these workers gained union representation in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, winning by the impressive vote margin of 176 to 38.

The members ratified the wage agreement on October 24. The new members are covered by all other contract provisions of the four-year agreement reached in August by Local 208 for the existing bargaining unit; only their wages remained to be negotiated after they joined the union. The new wage agreement brings significant gains for workers in each of the job classifications.

The wages for general clerk I and II among the newly-organized workers will be raised to the previously-negotiated wage rates for the employees in the general clerk I and II classifications who were already represented by the union.

Workers classified as data entry operator II will receive a raise of 73 cents an hour (5 percent) on December 1, 2011; 61 cents (4 percent) on December 1, 2012; 56 cents (3.5 percent) on December 1, 2013 and finally a raise of 58 cents (3.5 percent) on December 1, 2014. By the end of the contract the hourly wages of employees in the data entry operator II classifications will rise from $14.61 to $17.09.

Driver/couriers will receive hourly raises of 72 cents an hour (5 percent) on December 1, 2011; 60 cents (4 percent) on December 1, 2012; 56 cents (3.5 percent) on December 1, 2013 and 56 cents (3.5 percent) on December 1, 2014. Over the term of the contract, the wages of driver/couriers will increase from $14.40 to $16.84 an hour.

The shift differential will be 77 cents per hour for all second shift workers effective December 1. If the shift schedule for mid-shift employees is changed so that most of their work hours are after 3:00 p.m. (such as a noon to 8:30 p.m. shift), those employees will receive the shift differential for all hours worked after 3:00 p.m.

Contract language is included that requires the company to distribute any general clerk I work to data entry operator IIs and driver/couriers in an "equitable manner," and requires the company to document and keep records of the distribution of this work.

The company came to the bargaining table proposing a first-year wage freeze for data entry operator IIs and driver/couriers, and miniscule wage increases in the remaining three years. Union members wore union T-shirts, stickers and buttons, signed petitions, and attended bargaining sessions as "observers" to push the employer for a better offer. With strong membership support, the bargaining committee was able to move the employer from a total of 7.5 percent in wage increases over four years to 16 percent in raises.


Bargaining committee member Norma Rice says, "I think our new contract is great. It's been about nine years since many of the clerks received a raise, and it was about time we got one. We really needed the union. We needed raises and we deserve the protection and job security a union contract will give us." Bruce Webb, another member of the UE negotiating team, adds, "The bargaining process was sometimes tedious and laborious but I am very pleased with the outcome - it was well worth the time it took to win our raises and our contract."

The union bargaining committee consisted of Sharon Bigelow, Claire Boutah, Norma Rice and Bruce Webb. They were assisted by UE International Representative Kimberly Lawson.

The election win and wage agreement complete the task of organizing all workers in the Vermont and California Service Centers. Many of the workers successfully organized in 2008, but very aggressive anti-union campaigns by some of the contractors resulted in some groups of workers remaining non-union. The September 21 vote made UE Local 208 the bargaining representative for all workers at the Vermont Service Center. What had been the only remaining non-union group at the California center in Laguna Niguel - some 50 workers - organized, demanded and won voluntary recognition by the employer during contract negotiations over the summer. UE Local 1008 at the California Service Center and Local 208 in Vermont bargained their contracts jointly, and the agreements reached with the employers included provisions for an expedited election for the remaining workers in Vermont.



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