Building Teamster power in Santa Rosa

Last spring, Teamsters 856 Santa Rosa City Employees Association (SRCEA) members began negotiating with their employer, the city of Santa Rosa, for a new union contract.

With 450 members, SRCEA has the largest number of Santa Rosa employees, and their association has been an affiliate of Local 856 for the last five years. “Affiliation has offered us the opportunity and experience from individuals that are experts in the field of representation and negotiations,” said SRCEA President Michael Reynolds about the relationship.

SRCEA members keep their city running, as civil engineering techs, building inspectors, waste water operators, parking operations aids, and much more.

When negotiations began, the bargaining team planned to propose about 50 contract changes, including wage increases. Then, in political collaboration with community members and at the request of the City, the negotiations team and membership agreed to a one-year contract that included a cost of living increase and tabled further negotiations until a tax measure was voted on in the city.

Teamsters 856 helped to ensure the tax measure passed in November 2016. As they reopened their original contract, the team was now stronger, armed with the knowledge that they’d helped the city pass a measure that ensured there were enough funds to pay for most of their proposals.

Over several months, members bargained with the city, until an agreement was reached that provided them with more than half of their proposals. Their three-year contract includes wage increases over the course of the agreement, an increase in shift differentials, and a special trust for retiree medical costs.

“After close to two years and two contract cycles, we have created a contract that is like no other contract city of Santa Rosa employees have had,” said Teamsters 856 Staff Attorney Matthew Finnegan. “This is the first time they have a contract that reflects all of the benefits they’ve bargained over the last 20 years. It’s important for a unit that was hit hard during the recession with layoffs, takebacks, and mandatory days off.”

Jeff Bittner has been an SCREA board member for 11 years. He said negotiations were different than they’d been in the past. “Before we tried to do certain things and we got nowhere,” he said. “The thing that makes the biggest difference is the increase in our medical stipend. This is the first time we’ve gotten the city to contribute to it without us having to give up pay.”

With a strong contract under their belts, the SRCEA Board made the decision to move forward with becoming full Teamsters 856 members. Both SRCEA President Michael Reynolds and 856 Secretary-Treasurer Peter Finn think it’s a great decision for both organizations.

“Our union is ready to make a more permanent relationship between the Association and 856, and welcome SRCEA members as full members,” Peter said.

“I’m excited to present the opportunity to become fulltime members,” said Michael. “It’s important for our careers and our financial futures…This rewarding contract gives us the opportunity to show our members the true benefits of being full members.”

The next step is for the SRCEA Board to present the option of becoming full Teamsters 856 members to the SRCEA membership.