The city council approved four separate labor agreements for municipal employees on Tuesday evening. Missing was the labor agreement for the blue collar public works employees.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration has been accused by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 52, Local 2272 of engaging in unfair labor practice in a charge filed with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC).
Michael Jackson, president of Local 2272, said the city reneged on an agreement both parties struck in the presence of a mediator in the summer. When council members inquired about Local 2272’s contract business administrator Nellie Pou told them the union can return to the table anytime.
“Negotiations are still open. All they have to do is return to the table,” said Pou.
“There is no more sitting at the table. There is no table,” said Jackson. He said the city and the union signed a contract in presence of a meditator. He was at the meeting with about a dozen public works employees, who are some of the lowest paid workers on the government’s payroll.
“Do you know how it feels to pay your rent and you have to use two checks?” asked Darren Sumblin, a public works laborer, to the business administrator. “I have to pay late fees every month to my landlord because I can’t pay the rent with one check. Every month it costs me extra $50 because I have to pay my rent late.”
Sumblin said he is a single father with two kids to support and make payments on a vehicle. “I just can’t really understand it. I’m really hurt to the point where I’m almost in tears,” he said speaking at the podium addressing both council members and the Torres administration.
“We can’t even feed our family,” bawled one of the dozen employees who stood behind Sumblin as he spoke.
Council president William McKoy urged the Torres administration to come up with a plan to resolve the impasse with the blue collar workers union.
AFSCME Council 52, Locals 3474, 3474A, and 3474B
The council approved contract for Department of Public Works (DPW) supervisors, who belong to the AFSCME Council 52, Locals 3474, 3474A, and 3474B. The new contract provides across-the-board two-percent wage increase for public works supervisors with base salaries of $29,000 or higher and $1,000 for those with salaries below $29,000, according to the contract.
AFSCME Council 52, Locals 3474, 3474A, and 3474B’s contract runs from July 1st, 2014 through June 30th, 2019.
The supervisors will receive retroactive payments at two-percent or $1,000 for the past two years. By the time a new contract negotiation comes around the minimum salary for a public works supervisor will have gone up to $30,000.
William Rodriguez, who is the head of the union that represents 62 supervisors, said he was pleased with the contract. He hoped the city would soon have an agreement with Local 2272.
AFSCME Council 52, Local 3724
The white collar public works employees contract also provides for the same two-percent annual increase. The retroactive pay is also two-percent going back to July 1st, 2014. The retroactive pay for the unions will be paid through two fiscal years, according to the agreement. Half of the retro will be paid within 90 days and the rest by July 2017 (next fiscal year).
This agreement also runs from July 1st, 2014 through June 30th, 2019.
Local 74 United Service Workers Union, IUJAT
The city agreed to provide two-percent annual increase to Local 74 employees. Their contract runs from July 1st, 2016 through June 30th, 2019, according to the agreement.
AFSCME Council 52, Local 2903
The city’s library employees in Local 2903 will see two-percent annual wage increases as well, according to their contract which runs from July 1st, 2014 through June 30th, 2019. By the end of the contract minimum salary will be raised to $30,000.
Council members approved all four agreements on Tuesday night.