Delta Dental Teamsters make health care a priority in new contract

From left to right: Kevin Walker, Kathy Newell, Debbie Krevi, and Shaune Vaughn

The team of experienced Teamsters 856 shop stewards at Delta Dental are no strangers to listening to the priorities of their co-workers before heading to the table to negotiate a new union contract.

This year, members at all three Delta Dental locations — Rancho Cordova, Oakland, and San Francisco — ratified a new three-year contract, and one of their top priorities: securing their employer-paid health and welfare benefits.

“Health care costs are high, so maintaining our fully employer-paid health insurance was a big issue,” said Kevin Walker, a shop steward who works in the Denti-Cal telephone service center. “And after negotiations ended, we got what we wanted.”

Debbie Krevi has worked at Delta Dental for 19 years and has been a shop steward for 15 years. “The 100% paid medical benefits were most important because if you secure a raise, but then have to pay for your benefits, the health care costs would be so expensive, it would feel like we didn’t get a raise at all,” she said.

“In this climate where health care costs are rising, we wanted to make sure our members’ benefits were protected,” said Teamsters 856 Secretary-Treasurer/Principal Officer Peter Finn who led contract negotiations alongside Local 856 Staff Attorney Representative Susanna Farber.

The new contract also provides wage increases in each of the three years of the term of the agreement and creates a committee of union members and management who will meet monthly with the shared task of resolving open issues.

“We got a fair agreement that not only protects what’s most important to members and their families, but it also gives us an ongoing seat at the table to resolve workplace issues through a strong labor-management committee process,” said Susanna.

In addition to working at Delta Dental, Shaune Vaughn is also an assistant business agent for Teamsters 856. “The joint labor-management meetings may help cut down on the number of grievances we have by giving us an opportunity to discuss rather than letting issues fester,” she said. “I’m ready for our first meeting where we are going to discuss updating our attendance policy.”

Kathy Newell, who has worked at Delta Dental for 33 years and is also a shop steward, believes that all the improvements they were able to make in this contract would be impossible if she and her co-workers were unable to stand together as Teamsters. “As union members, we can make sure our voices are heard,” she said. “Without a union, I don’t think I’d want to be here, so I am proud to be a Teamster and a Teamster shop steward.”