Local 2428 members recently won a contract that brings more equity to the workers who maintain the endless miles of open space that make the Bay Area one of the best places to live in the country.
At a time when housing prices continue to skyrocket and the wealth gap keeps disproportionately growing, Local 2428 reached an agreement with the East Bay Regional Park District that gives all members a 12.8% wage increase over four years, plus a new top step with a 2.5% wage increase available for all positions.
Based on this contract, the majority of members will receive a 9.8% raise by April 2018. There was also an increase in acting pay and a new “formal training” pay.
Most importantly, the Local got the district to agree to conduct a classification and compensation study and put aside $1 million in equity adjustments that could bring up the wages of a significant number of workers, some of whom have been vastly underpaid compared to their counterparts throughout the region.
“During negotiations, we wanted to get the district to understand that we do great work and should be compensated accordingly so that we can continue to live and work here,” said Eri Glans-Suzuki, president of AFSCME Local 2428. “The Bay Area is an expensive place to live, and one of the things that makes it a nice place to live is the fact that there are lots of parks.”
Glans-Suzuki said getting the classification and compensation study was crucial because Local 2428 represents some 150 different types of workers who maintain 65 regional parks, and some positions had not been updated in nearly 20 years—even though the Bay Area economy has dramatically changed since then.
Being able to show management what the workers are actually worth will give members a bigger voice in the future and more negotiating power, she said.
“I think it’s a good step to making sure that we can try to keep up with the economy,” she said.
Sandy Feslier, a park ranger at Garin and Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks, said she appreciates the “blood, sweat and tears” that members put into negotiating a fair contract.
In previous jobs, she hasn’t always had good wages or benefits. But, with AFSCME, she has always had a good salary, benefits and job security--key things that our Union always fights to protect.
“I totally get the benefits of having a union because I know what it’s like not to have benefits or a union,” Feslier said.
One of the other benefits of this new contract, members say, is that members worked together to not only protect the park rangers—whom comprise a large majority of the workforce—but also workers like Pat Dedmon, the park district’s only mining supervisor.
Dedmon and the two mining technicians that he oversees have the unique and very dangerous job of maintaining the Hazel Atlas Mine, one of the most productive coal and sand mines in California’s history that is part of the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Dedmon and his crew make sure the mine is safe for public tours. Some of the levels of the mine are 45-feet tall, and one of their jobs is to scale the walls and bring down loose rocks.
If it wasn’t for the Union fighting for everyone, Dedmon said, his job wouldn’t have been protected when he had back surgery.
“I’m still in the saddle because of the Union,” he said. “It’s all due to the fact that we have bargained for our hard-earned contracts.”