Teamsters 856 members ratify three new contracts in Marin County

After late night negotiations sessions and refusals to budge on language in their contracts that protect their job security and benefits, Marin County Deputy District Attorneys, Marin County Probation, and MCMEA (a Local 856 affiliate) Teamsters each ratified new agreements with the County last month.

“The County tried to force us to accept takeaways in a time when the Marin County economy is strong,” said Local 856 Staff Attorney Susanna Farber who led the negotiations of each agreement. “But members wouldn’t back down. The Probation, Deputy District Attorney, and MCMEA members worked together in solidarity with members of other unions in the County to force Marin to negotiate in good faith and remove the takeaways.”

Marin County Probation Teamsters made the fight against outsourcing a priority. The negotiations team held firm and refused to accept the County’s proposal to remove a section of the contract that prevents the County from outsourcing members’ work.

“The number one thing we were steadfast on was the language that stopped the County from contracting out,” said Lee Lancaster, a member of the negotiations team and a lead juvenile corrections officer. “We got that language in the agreement a few years ago and we wanted to keep it in. The County promised they wouldn’t outsource our work, but we wanted the security of the language.”

Lee Lancaster has worked for Marin County for 15 and a half years. He is currently a juvenile corrections officer lead.

Local 856 has long championed the fight against outsourcing in both the private and public sectors because of the devastating impact privatizing or contracting out union work can have on workers’ wages, benefits, employee turnover, as well as the reduction in the quality of service to clients and communities. Read more about Teamsters 856’s fight against outsourcing at

Marin County Probation Teamsters stood together and refused to accept the County’s proposed takeaway and were successful. “Holding on to our job security was number one,” said Susana Ceniceros, a negotiations team member, and deputy probation officer. “We held strong because we wanted a way to protect members’ jobs and their livelihoods.”

The Marin County Probation Teamsters agreement also includes wage increases each year of the agreement, more affordable health care options through the addition of the Teamsters 856 Health and Welfare Trust Fund, increases for future health care costs, and more.

Susana was especially proud of the team’s ability to be creative at the negotiations table in ways that will positively impact her co-workers and their families. “Our rep helped us keep the money the County was trying to take away,” she said. “We were able to keep it in our unit instead of giving it back to the County.”

The MCMEA negotiations team headed into contract negotiations with the backing of Teamsters 856 representatives and attorneys for the first time this year.

James Villella has been a member of the MCMEA Board for 12 years and has worked in public health administration for the County for nearly 17 years. “We had to push and to fight,” he said. “We had to fight the takeaways the County proposed, including eliminating the way vacation is structured and eliminating cash back and hold harmless.”

James Villella works in public health administration for Marin County. He is also the first vice president of MCMEA.

MCMEA Board President Eric Swift said that County was attempting to create an environment of concession bargaining in an excellent economy.

“It was hard to understand why we were in such a position when the County is doing quite well,” he said. Our members give everything they have, which is something the County should be proud to have, but they wanted to take away one benefit after another.”

Eric says the negotiations team and the membership stood up against the takeaways for members like those on Marin County road crews who work tough jobs to keep the County running.

“For me, one of the big things was trying to protect the road crews who go out in the middle of the night,” he said. “If you’re going out in a storm on Christmas night and have to leave your family, you should be compensated accordingly.”

Because of their solidarity and strength, the membership was able to vote on a contract that provides fair compensation and protects their benefits.

“The County changed its direction,” said James. They came to us in a more collaborative way, recognizing that they needed to work with us. Once the tone changed, we were able to have a conversation and come to a fair agreement and they removed their takeaways.”

Eric Swift is the President of MCMEA.

MCMEA’s first contract as Local 856 affiliates includes wage increases each year of the agreement, equity increases for 22 classifications, increases to fringe benefits, the addition of the Teamster’s 856 Health and Welfare Trust Fund at a significantly reduced rate than the County’s current PPO plan and more.

“I’m proud of the contract Susanna helped us negotiate,” said Eric. “A lot of people have remarked at what a good job our Teamsters representative did of explaining the agreement to members and of helping us get what we achieved”

The Marin County Deputy District Attorney’s new agreement includes wage increases each year of the three-year contract, a choice in health care with the addition of the Teamster’s 856 Health and Welfare Trust Fund, increases to fringe benefits, and more.

For the Marin County Deputy District Attorneys, Marin County Probation, and MCMEA Teamsters, solidarity was key to successful negotiations of all three new Marin County contracts.

“It was really refreshing to me,” remarked Susana from Marin County Probation. “When we had our membership meetings and the negotiations team gave our updates, I felt us all coming together because it was clear the County wasn’t meeting us halfway…It forced us to be strong and stick together.”