Local 799 School Workers Win Wage Increases, Holds Down Insurance Costs

September 12, 2014

UE Local 799 members, who work for the Delaware City Schools, approved a new two-year contract on August 7. The new agreement improves wages by 2.25 percent in the first year and 2 percent in the second year, and includes a 25 cent “bump” to increase the hourly wage rates of workers in several classifications, including cooks, cashiers, custodians, assistant head cook, assistant head cashiers and assistant head custodians.  The bump raises the rates for steps 1 through 10 of the wage schedule, the lowest-paid workers in the unit.

There is also a 25 cent hourly increase in the field trip rate for bus drivers and on the catering rate for banquets, paid to food service workers.

Since 1998, Local 799 members have paid 18 percent of their health insurance premium. In this round of bargaining the local could not hold off increases completely, but kept them to a minimum. The employee’s share of the premium goes to 19 percent this year and 20 percent in 2015. “We did better than the other two unions,” says Local President Nina Williams. “We have always gotten free dental, and the other unions are now paying 20 percent. We fought that back and we will still not pay anything for dental.” The other two unions in the school district bargained before UE. The new contract also extends insurance coverage to domestic partners. Employees who waive health insurance because they have other coverage will receive $1,000 a year.

New language on vacations will allow workers to take vacation in half-day increments. The attendance incentive was changed; workers with perfect attendance will no longer get two days off with pay for each semester. They will now receive the two-days of bonus pay but not the time off.

“We did pretty good. Negotiations went smoothly,” Williams said, with the exception of one incident when a school board member behaved rudely, but the other employer representatives straightened him out, and the contract was settled soon after that. 

For Don Shannon, a bus driver and the local’s recording secretary, this was his first negotiations and “a very interesting learning experience.” He previously worked for 36 years in the telecommunications industry, “and most of my career was on the management side of the bargaining table,” he said. “I was impressed by the professionalism exhibited by both sides. I was pleased it was not a knock-down, drag-out sort of thing. Both sides did a good job of listening to each other, so it truly was a bargaining session.” He feels the union did well with the contract that was agreed to. “I think we got most of the things that we desired.”

The bargaining committee consisted of President Nina Williams, Vice President Mary Jo Davis, Chief Steward Kathy Goddard, Recording Secretary Don Shannon, and Financial Secretary Tami Gardner. They were assisted by International Representative Dennis Painter.

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