“It’s important to recognize that this gain was directly related to our bargaining team and membership’s willingness to fight the County…” wrote Malia Vella, a staff attorney and representative for Teamsters 856 in an email to members at Alameda County Probation.
Malia was referring to a smart battle won by the probation officers, which led to them keeping their annual salary survey intact in their contract when the county tried to change it. The result: a substantial wage increase for members.
“This was the highest I’d seen,” said Deputy Probation Officer and longtime shop steward, Kevin Bryant. Kevin said that when he started working for Alameda County 18 years ago — just before he and his colleagues voted to become Teamsters — they were among the lowest-paid probation officers in the Bay Area, and now they’re among the highest.
Once they joined the Union, members fought to include a salary survey in their contract. Once they did, their salary was linked to the annual survey, and would be the median of the salaries of probation officers in select surrounding counties, including Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco.
With the cost of living rising rapidly in the area, it became important to keep the salary survey over the years to ensure they received fair wage increases. Last year, during negotiations the bargaining team, which included Kevin, fought hard to preserve it, and won.
“A lot of other public safety units gave in to pressure by Alameda County to move away from the salary survey,” said Malia. “They got lured by short-term gains and lazy bargaining. We did our research and ran the numbers and decided as a team that it was worth the fight.”
The team’s solidarity and diligence paid off when after the salary survey was conducted in August, members learned they would receive their highest wage increase yet.
“This is high,” said Kevin. “It was higher because the other counties got raises, and because we fought to keep the salary survey. Other units have gone to percentages, but we decided the survey would be important to keep.”
“A single year raise of more than 8% for our members means that they can live comfortably and provide for their families even as costs rise,” said Malia. “The fact that we kept the survey, maintained our medical benefits and won significant workplace rights is a testament to the strength and solidarity of our members. It pays to fight for what’s right.”
Ed Braun, another Alameda County Probation shop steward, said their wage increase was one part of the strong contract members were able to negotiate last year.
“It’s not just the salary and the excellent raise,” said Ed. “We maintained our medical benefits as well when the county wanted us to go to a lower medical package. It was really thanks to the negotiating team’s efforts and experience that we didn’t give any ground on decreasing our medical benefits — no concessions.”
For both Kevin and Ed, strong, smart contracts are a part of being a Teamster.
“The support the Union provided the team gave us the tools necessary to go in and fight for these benefits for our membership,” said Ed. “Teamsters fight hard for public sector workers.”
“My grandfather was a Teamster then I became a Teamster when I worked for UPS, and I didn’t think I’d be in a union again, but when we became Teamsters here, I knew we were headed to the top,” said Kevin. “Being represented by one of the most powerful unions in the U.S. is great.”