The public employees of Jackson County have been dealing with one of the “worst case scenarios” that unions members do everything to avoid: they are working without a contract. The Jackson County Employees Association (a sublocal of SEIU Local 503) have been in bargaining since May trying to get to a fair contract with a management team that is increasingly refusing to negotiate fairly with their employees. Now their contract has expired and that could mean that many of the protections our union contract affords us are no longer guaranteed.
The Jackson County union contract expired on June 30th, and their bargaining team has been hard at work negotiating for something equitable for all parties.
“Bargaining is becoming incredibly difficult. We are negotiating for the next contract for the next three years, but we are also working without a contract right now. Which is really concerning for a lot of the employees,” says Del Hackworth, a union activist and member of the bargaining team.
Normally, management would just accept an extension on the current contract while bargaining is going on, yet the country has expressed such a profound disrespect for the union that they refused even this standard accommodation. Just cause, the grievance procedure, and other union protections are on the line right now, which is why settling the contract is the top priority for employees in the county.
This has proven easier said than done as management refuses to agree to fair wages and benefits for the employees who make the country work.
The cost of healthcare has risen also by more than 300%, a move that makes healthcare unaffordable for many of the working class members of the bargaining unit. The bargaining team is concerned that management will refuse to cover some of the increased cost in the next contract, and management has also been unwilling to move on many of the issues that affect the working families who are employed by them.
“I’m concerned that management is not taking the employees well being seriously. They are trying to save a dime rather than thinking about what is best for employees,” said Hackworth. Many employees are also reporting systemic issues with management, such as incidents where the right to union representation, often called “Weingarten Rights,” have been denied, or stringent policies on vacation time.
While it has been an uphill battle, the bargaining team has seen movement on some issues and are continuing to fight over the next several weeks.
“Right now employees need to show up for bargaining, that is what will influence us having a better contract,” said Hackworth. Participation in union actions are some of the best ways that employees can support a contract, which means connecting with their organizer and coming out to a bargaining session.
There are a few other key ways that you can help bargaining to ensure that Jackson County employees can settle a fair contract:
- If you are an employee of Jackson County, sign this petition to tell the County Commissioners that they need to show respect to their employees and agree to a fair contract.
- If you are a community member, you can sign this separate petition raising your voice in support of the Jackson County Employee Association.
- If you are a represented employee in Jackson County, make sure to update your membership to show that you support the union. The stronger our membership numbers are, the stronger our hand is at the bargaining table. We are always stronger together than we are alone.
Stay tuned for more bargaining sessions coming up in the next few weeks, and speak out in support of our team. Our strength at the bargaining table comes directly from the support we give to each other!