A little less than three years ago, employees of the Town of Windsor negotiated a strong first contract as members of their new union, Teamsters 856. In August, the bargaining unit unanimously ratified a contract extension that builds upon the strengths of the existing contract.
The extension ensures that members’ healthcare and retirement costs will not increase while also providing wage increases that will keep up with the rising cost of living each year for two years.
For the Shop Stewards in the Town of Windsor, the idea to ask for a contract extension was a strategic one. With a forecast from the city that bad financial times were coming, they decided to get ahead instead of waiting to see what might happen.
“It was about keeping and building on what we had already, and locking it in for the long-term,” said Heath Blackwell, a waste water treatment and distribution operator. “Our existing MOU and the extension makes sure that we’re financially secure for the next four years.”
Once they had the idea, the Stewards and Teamsters 856 Staff Attorney Matthew Finnegan, surveyed the membership to confirm that a contract extension was the move the majority of the unit wanted to make. This decision laid the groundwork for the ratification vote that would come just a couple months later.
Negotiations for the extension started in June and ended in August. After some back and forth and a reminder to the employer that not reaching an agreement on an extension would mean going in full contract negotiations soon, they ended with an MOU side letter agreement that members believe is fair and equitable. “The town got a good value for their expenditures and we feel like our work is being properly valued,” said Brian Anderson, a waste water operator.
When it was time to take the agreement to the membership, the response was unlike any they’d seen in the past.
“A unanimous ratification like this has never happened before,” said Denise Alcala, a senior administrative assistant and Shop Steward. “I think it shows that our group has confidence and trust in the Teamsters. I think one of the best decisions we made was when we found Teamsters, and now everybody has seen the benefit.”
Brian, who is a Shop Steward, as well, has been a waste water operator for 39 years total, and has done the work for the Town of Windsor for about two and a half years. He believes that in addition to trust in their union, his coworkers have built trust amongst themselves. “I think the thing that made it the first unanimous ratification vote in 11 years was that the people who have been here the longest have garnered members’ trust,” he said.
“There was a lot of trust that the team not only put in me, but we shared together,” said Matthew Finnegan. “After we had our vote it was clear we were doing the right thing for the group. When you get a huge percentage like that, it tells you we’re in tuned and they trust what we’re doing. I am pleased we could bring such a widely-accepted contract extension to our Windsor Teamsters.”