For a little over a year now, Teamsters 856 has represented workers employed by Contra Costa County. From wage increases to health care, improvements and changes in the way temporary employees are treated – a lot has been accomplished. Confidence, trust, and power have been built, and Teamsters 856 members are equipped to continue to fight back challenges and win victories.
“I’m so proud to be a member of the Teamsters,” said Shop Steward Lisa Day-Silva who works as an LVN at the Pittsburg Health Center. “We fight for what’s right, and if workers have been used and abused for all these years, you need to do right by them.”
The number one priority for members in Contra Costa County: health care.
Members were paying up to $800 a month for premiums, and had few health care options besides the Contra Costa County Health Plan (CCHP). When Teamsters 856 began representing County employees, the union offered its own Health & Welfare Trust Fund. The Local bargained directly with Kaiser for better rates, and members are saving on average, between $200 and $600 a month. Members who were enrolled in a County provided health plan as of June 1, 2016, received a one-time, $1,000 pay out to help with the rising cost of premiums. The difference has made a significant impact on members and their families.
“For one thing, we save more,” said Cris Carispo, a physical therapist at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. “CCHP was good, but the waiting periods could be about three months. Now, with Kaiser, we can just call for an appointment.”
“I was with Kaiser before and paying like $400 just for myself,” said Occupational Therapist Matt Pajawee. “The savings means a lot in terms of being able to pay my student loans.”
“I’m saving around $300,” said Angelica Matamoros, a Community Health Worker for Contra Costa Health Services. “I have more money to give my son in college, and my youngest son for the sports he plays. I have more access to health care with Kaiser, and I can save money every month.”
Another big victory: a 10 percent salary increase over three years.
“Right off the bat, during negotiations, we were able to incorporate a 10 percent raise,” said Lisa Day-Silva. “We hadn’t had one in years.” Lisa said the pay increase has helped her deal with the rising cost of living in the area.
“It’s been a big, big change,” said Cris Carispo. “We’re getting a 10 percent raise in the next three years…I can buy a new car!”
Temporary agency employees in the County had been targets of much of the misuse and abuse that has happened. For years, Contra Costa County used temporary agency employees to fill positions that should have been permanent. By doing so, these employees worked without access to benefits or worker protections. Some temporary employees were held in that status for as many as eight years.
Instead of rolling over and approving the County’s plan to further increase its nearly $5 million contract with a temp agency in Hanford, California, Teamsters 856 challenged the validity of the practice. The union forced the County to meet and confer on all temporary agency contracts as they come up for renewal, and to-date, over 100 temporary positions have been converted into permanent bid positions. Additionally, through the meet and confer process, a new practice was established that offers LVN, CMA and Lab Technician job assignments to employees by seniority.
In the past year, strides have also been made to protect part-time employees.
Previously, the County pro-rated the amount of the reimbursement part-time employees received for required continuing education coursework based on the number of hours they worked. This however, was not supported by the contract. The unfair practice was overturned through the grievance process. Now, part-time employees receive a 100 percent reimbursement for their training.
Teamsters 856 members in Contra Costa County are proud of what they’ve accomplished together, but for many it goes beyond what’s been done, it’s about knowing what else can be achieved in the future.
“We have that feeling that there is hope,” said Corinne Concannon, an Institutional Services Worker – Specialist at the Regional Medical Center. “We’re strong enough to stand up, and that means we have a chance to argue a point if something’s going wrong, and that’s important.”
There’s more strength in Contra Costa County than there was a year ago. Teamsters 856 members will continue to build upon that strength as a powerful collective unit.
“We will not rest on our laurels and become complacent now,” said Teamsters 856 Secretary-Treasurer Peter Finn. “We recognize there is more work to be done. We should all be proud of what we’ve accomplished together in Contra Costa County and use these victories to fuel our fire to fight for more.”