UE Local 150’s Municipal Council has been busy organizing and mobilizing city workers in all four of North Carolina’s largest cities.
In Raleigh, city workers in the City of Raleigh began a process of rejuvenating their chapter in mid-2017, and have won many improvements. A new excessive heat policy ensures that workers can get hourly breaks for “moderate” work when the heat index is over 80, along with cooling personal protective equipment and training for management and front-line workers to avoid heat-related illness. Workers on a four-day, ten-hour schedule will now receive ten hours pay for holidays. The boot allowance was increased from $80 to $100 and Solid waste workers won spill kits in their trucks so that hydraulic uid and other hazardous leaks get mitigated.
The union also won several grievances, keeping workers from being unfairly suspended and winning back pay for time-and-a-half pay for over a dozen workers who worked on the Saturday after Veteran’s Day.
In Greensboro, the union is currently surveying all city employees about their opinions on a merit-only versus a step plan. So far, 81% say a step plan based on seniority is better for workers. “The City runs because city workers work. When hurricanes come or when water main lines burst, we are the first responders, yet we are paid like we are an after-thought,” stated Charles French, equipment operator in solid waste and President of the Greensboro City Workers Union. “All city workers deserve family-supporting wages, that means we need a Step Plan based on years of service.”
Water resources workers will now be allowed to choose whether to take comp time or paid overtime after the union circulated a petition and collected signatures from the majority of water resources workers. After working many long hours to help clean up the city in the aftermath of hurricanes and tornadoes last year, many water resources workers wished to be able to take some time off to spend with their families, but department management decided that they would only pay workers overtime but not allow people to use comp time (which is allowed under the city’s human resources policy).
The Durham City Workers Union held a speak-out on February 21. Over 80 people, including Mayor Steve Schewel and City Council member DeDreana Freeman, gathered to hear 30 workers from five departments speak out about concerns with changes to the city’s classification and compensation plan. Concerns included increases to on-call days, workers being forced to have licenses and degrees, and work speed-up.
The union has also helped force the release of two abusive public works managers. In March 2017, a superintendent was let go after two union members filed grievances reporting unfair actions, falsified documents and unprofessional behavior. Months earlier, union struggle and documentation also resulted in release of a manager.
In January, the Durham City Workers Union, working with other labor allies in the Durham Workers Assembly, won the passage of a new city commission to oversee workers rights in the city. They also won a City Council resolution in April 2018 calling on the state legislature to overturn the ban on public-sector workers’ collective bargaining and allow for union contracts in the public sector.
In Charlotte, Special Transportation Services drivers held a sticker day to speak out against unsafe working conditions and work rule changes. The Charlotte chapter is also leading the fight for healthcare for all, by demanding that their City Council pass a resolution in support of the HR 1384 in US Congress, a bill for Expanded and Improved Medicare for All!