WBNG members at Local 500 SEIU have ratified an agreement that provides 3 percent raises in each year of a three-year agreement that is effective retroactive to July 1.
“The new contract includes improvements in health benefits,” said Unit Chair Ed Fortney, “as well as the introduction of successor language and language limiting how long disciplinary notices remain on employees’ records.”
The agreement also provides five more bankable sick days and an increase in maternity/paternity leave from two weeks to four weeks. “We also are seeing an increase in the layoff notice from two weeks to three weeks,” Fortney said, “and we were able to keep the previous contract’s security language intact.”
The previous contract expired in June, and talks began last summer. One night, a few days before a scheduled bargaining session, “we had a sign-making party and some lasagna in the office,” Fortney said. “We hung the signs in and around our work-stations, and when the executive director came in the next morning, he tore down the signs and [expressed his anger] in front of early-arriving staff. He also loudly announced that the next two scheduled bargaining sessions were cancelled.”
“Since this was clearly a failure to respect our right to concerted protected activity, we filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge,” said Fortney, who noted that after the dust had settled, things were a little less contentious and the talks continued.
The ULP has been dropped with the settlement of the contract, but a grievance filed over three staff members’ suspensions after they had reported late to an Organizing Department meeting in April is going to arbitration.
Other members of the Guild bargaining committee were Seth Dietz, Ed Lawler, Marvin Luke, Robin Seegers, Travis Simon, Justin Yampolsky, and WBNG Executive Director Cet Parks.
Local 500 of the Service Employees International Union represents security, maintenance, clerical, transportation and food service employees in the Montgomery County, Md., school system, and part-time faculty at American University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, Montgomery College, and the University of the District of Columbia. The local also has collective bargaining agreements with Maryland Family Child Care, the National Children’s Center, Oxfam America, and Public Citizen.
Sixteen Local 500 staffers, including organizers, administrative employees, and field reps, are themselves represented by a contract that is bargained and enforced by the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild.
Fortney says that the best way to summarize Local 500 activities is to “think of us as the early childhood to adult education advocacy union.”
WBNG and Local 500 management signed their first contract in 1995; the current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire June 30, 2019.