Bargaining delegates at the Coos Bay/North Bend Water Board have finally come to an agreement on a hard fought contract, settling months of negotiations that will see major improvements for workers across the unit. The Water Board is one of the most essential public utilities for that area of Oregon’s coast, ensuring clean and accessible water for several municipalities along the Southern coastal corridor. These employees are essential to the health and safety of Oregon’s coastal community and together they stood up to ensure that all represented staff had living wages that were commensurate with their experience and workload.
One of the critical issues our union was facing was that many of the office staff working at the Water Board were underpaid compared to the industry standard. The union worked with management to conduct a wage study that proved this inequality, which then allowed employees to demand a sizable pay raise. Accounting technicians, accounting and customer service clerks, and several other positions will be getting at least a 3% salary selective. The rest of the staff will be getting a 2.1% “cost of living adjustment,” and this will increase to 2.5% in each of the next two years.
SEIU members successfully bargained to keep healthcare costs low and won a Labor Management Committee, which is a committee of union members and management that meet regularly to address workplace issues as they come up. This is a critical way that employees and management can come together to address problems right at the start, ensuring a harmonious work space where everyone gets the resources they need to succeed.
Employees also fought hard to get a 5% “work out of class” adjustment when they are performing duties above their current classification, as well as a 50% payout of accumulated sick leave when they retire.
“The more people that are involved, the stronger we are when we are bargaining for a good contract,” says local Treasurer and bargaining team member Wanda Pickett.
“We had a lot of big wins and we also had a good management team to negotiate with to ensure those improvements.”
Employees at the Coos Bay/North Bend Water Board are working hard to build their local union, getting workers from a range of positions and shifts to come together to develop even stronger bonds. Just like during contract negotiations, when more workers come together in our union, we can improve our workplaces for our coworkers and the communities we serve.