On December 1, 2022, members of UE Local 228 ratified a new 32-month agreement. The local’s 500 members process immigration documents and provide petitioner support at the State Department’s National Visa Center. They are employed by federal contractor LDRM. Local 228 is one of six federal contractor units in the UE who work under the Service Contract Act (SCA). It is the sister location to Local 728, the Kentucky Consular Center in Williamsburg, KY.
Local 228’s new contract contains no concessions and maintains the string of strong wage gains that began after the local first organized in 2016. The new agreement includes annual wage increases of five, four, and three percent. The contract also increases Health & Welfare earnings by 9.3 percent, reducing the employee obligation for insurance premiums. Members who answer telephone inquiries will now receive an extra $1 per hour pay differential. With the contract’s final wage increases in 2025, the annual earnings of all Local 228 members will have increased by at least $20,000 per year when compared to what they were making before their first UE contract in 2017.
The agreement contains other notable economic gains. Overtime pay is now guaranteed for all work over 32 hours during a holiday week. Vacation accrual for new hires has been accelerated to allow for paid time off after six months instead of one year. Paid bereavement leave is increased from three to five days for those members who must travel overseas to attend a funeral. Members will now be granted paid work time to recertify and maintain their security clearances. Most significantly, the medical plans that Local 228 fought for and won in a joint campaign with Local 728 can now only be changed with mutual agreement of the union.
Local 228 also won major improvements to disciplinary policies. All discipline will now be removed from an employee’s record after one year. The employer’s no-fault attendance policy has been eliminated and members now have a minimum three-minute grace period for all timeclock punches. The company very reluctantly agreed to forfeit its ability to discipline employees for failure to reach production quotas, which had been an ever-increasing target.
The new contract is the first negotiated by Local 228 following the shift to a majority-remote workforce, a change implemented to continue operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift has created organizational challenges. During bargaining, the local used a full arsenal of communications tools, including an active Facebook Group, text alerts, email updates, and phone calls to every bargaining unit member, to inform and mobilize members during the three-week contract campaign. The negotiating committee also gave real-time updates and held virtual discussions using a Microsoft Teams group. Chief Steward Shane Tassinari explained, “We used the company’s own technology against them. The Teams chat was the one place where we could reliably reach everyone and put out the call to observe negotiations, sign the online petition, and push back against management when the company wasn’t giving the progress we needed.”
Those working onsite canvassed the facility with signs that read “Living Wage or Worker Rage.” This, combined with rumored plans for a work stoppage, prompted State Department officials to demand that LDRM work swiftly to avoid a labor dispute. “Our members were more ready than ever to strike if we didn’t get a good deal,” said President Dee Towne. "When it looked like we might not get there, we took a strike authorization vote. It was unanimous and we let the company know that. Our work is important. We deserve good pay and respect and we’re not ever going to settle for less.”
The Negotiating Committee consisted of President Dee Towne, Chief Steward Shane Tassinari, Vice President Diana Fuller, and stewards Keith Correll, Ed Martin, and Lily Moore. They were assisted by International Representative Zachary Knipe.