East Bay MUD Members Build Bridges, Show Strength in Numbers to Win New Contract

Members from our two locals that represent workers at the East Bay Municipal Utility District recently won a new contract that guarantees them a 4% raise in the first year, retroactive to April 2017, as well as a Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase plus 0.5% over the next three years.

In both units, 75% of the membership participated in ratifying the new agreement with 96% of the members overwhelmingly voting in support of the new contract.

“Getting a new contract was extremely important because our contract had expired, and our members count on that raise every four years,” said John Briceno, president of Local 444, which represents everyone from wastewater plant operators and concrete finishers to gardeners and janitors. “We had some challenges at the beginning of negotiations. But we handled it as a team and the members stuck by me, and we were able to secure a really good contract.”

“Our success at the bargaining table reflects the tremendous value that our brothers and sisters provide to East Bay MUD, making it one of the most respected utilities in the world,” said Mark Foley, president of Local 2019, which represents such workers as engineers, administrative clerks, customer service representatives and software engineers.

Historically, our East Bay MUD brothers and sisters have been able to win favorable contracts. But one of the differences this time around was that the locals focused on building relationships with each of the board members for East Bay MUD, Briceno said.

As public service workers, our union is unique because, as members of the community and government employees, we elect our bosses.

So members took the time to sit down and meet with each East Bay MUD board member, Briceno said. It also helped that in 2014 members used their resources to get Director Marguerite Young, a pro-worker candidate, elected to Ward 3.

Through our union’s Public Employees Organized to Promote Legislative Equality (PEOPLE) program, members can make voluntary contributions separate from their dues and work to elect candidates who will act in the interest of AFSCME members and their families.

“You’ve got to be involved in politics because politics will take an interest in you whether you’re involved or not,” Briceno said.

Another factor that helped was the fact that members were visible in their AFSCME green T-shirts during board meetings and at the workplace on days when negotiations were taking place.

“Achieving a four-year contract that delivers cost-of-living improvements, in addition to annual raises, in each year without any significant takeaways or changes to our healthcare coverage is a testament to the strength of our members,” Foley said.

In addition to achieving pay raises, the members were also able to secure a number of benefits that will help them and their families thrive.

East Bay MUD agreed to continue making 100% contributions to members’ healthcare if they have Kaiser for themselves, a spouse and family members. For other plans, the district will pay 100% of employee-only healthcare coverage and 85% of coverage for spouses and family members.

The district agreed to replace HealthNet, which was getting too expensive for members, with a Sutter health plan option that is more affordable, starting in 2019.

The new contract also helped out recent hires. Due to a change in state law, workers hired after January 1, 2013, work under a lower pension formula. To assist those workers, the union negotiated an improvement in the current 20-year longevity pay that applies only to workers hired after 2013.

Through the new contract, members were also able to secure increases in subsidies for members who take public transit to work, hearing aid coverage and more money for safety shoes. Members from several Local 444 and 2019 job classifications received equity adjustments.