UE Local 1118 members who process paperwork for the US Citizen and Imigration Services (USCIS) have seen a lot of contractors come and go, but have never had the challenges they experienced over the past year getting paid for work they had already performed.
Local 1118 President Delores Phillips put it this way: “Never have I had an employer miss payroll three times in one year. This is the kind of thing we shouldn’t even need in the contract, but I guess we do. Now if they pay us late they will have to pay for it, and we’re pretty sure they’ll make payroll on-time going forward.”
Under the terms of their new agreement with federal contractor Sciolex, settled on December 7, the first time the employer misses payroll they will have to pay each affected worker a $100 penalty payment in addition to covering any and all late fees accrued by the employee. Each subsequent failure to pay will result in a $200 penalty, plus five percent of the late wages.
Local 1118 also secured a 12 percent pay increase in the first year and four percent in years two and three, totaling 20 percent in pay increases over the life of the contract. In addition to wage increases, members will see an increase in Health and Welfare (H&W) money to offset rising insurance costs. H&W payments will increase from $5.33 per hour to $7.20 per hour over the life of the contract. The bargaining team also negotiated to make it easier for members who have health insurance through another source to take this money as “cash-in-lieu" on their paychecks.
The new contract also adds Juneteenth and Good Friday as paid holidays.
In addition to solid economic gains, the contract includes expanded union rights for stewards and extended union leave for officers and activists. Under the new contract union stewards will be able to enter locked departments for the purpose of union orientation, and to sign up newly-hired employees.
Participating in regional and national education and governance is a priority for Local 1118 members, who bargained to eliminate the cap on short-term union leave used to attend conventions and educational events. They also doubled long-term union leave from six months to one year.
“This was my first time bargaining a contract, but I feel like we made important gains in all areas,” said Vice President Calliah Shade-Pounds. “We’re always going to fight for more money, but we also have to make sure that every contract builds the union. I look forward to taking advantage of the new union leave to learn how to further strengthen our local in the future.”
The Local 1118 bargaining team consisted of President Delores Philips, Vice President Calliah Shade-Pounds and Financial Secretary Cheryl Ruth. They were assisted by International Representative Zachary Knipe and Field Organizer Sean Fulkerson.