The Bargaining Unit Negotiating Committee (BUNC) for Office and Allied workers represented by Local 1000 Bargaining Unit 4 went to the table with the State on April 18 for the first day of negotiations on unit-specific issues.

The bargaining team knew that they were in for a fight. Karen Jefferies, Bargaining Unit Negotiating Committee (BUNC) Chair for Unit 4 says “Right now, I see us as defending years of contract legacy, the protections that we’ve secured over the years. It’s important that the language we get reflects the spirit of the membership’s original demands.”

This bargaining session focused on six non-economic articles that covered language pertaining to upward mobility, Joint Labor Management Committees (JLMCs), task forces, and classification studies. These are crucial tools for state workers to take advantage of their training and expertise to develop their careers and maximize their time in state service.

The State’s negotiators were surprised when the BUNC pushed back against what they called “clean up” changes to the article language. “The State came in trying to clean up language that they didn’t understand and hadn’t studied,” said Jose Eric Alcaraz, BUNC Alternate Vice Chair. “These are hard-won protections, and our language wasn’t chosen lightly. We were able to make them understand why we’re fighting to defend it.”

The experience of SEIU Local 1000’s negotiators was clear. “I was 19 when I started with the state; I’m 43 now,” said Nickia Brisco, a BUNC member, and employee at the Department of Consumer Affairs. “Our experience working for the state exceeds theirs. That’s why we value that language. While we’re making progress toward a stronger contract, we need to remember nothing in our contract is there by default. We have to fight for all of it.”

The bargaining team presented a number of contract articles for “rollover,” a term used to describe parts of the contract that don’t require negotiation this cycle.  The State agreed to roll over Article 5.16.4, which continues the Disability Determination Services Division JLMC. “We had good discussion and dialog,” said Alcaraz. “The chief negotiator listened and gave thoughtful responses. There’s an understanding that we both want Unit 4 to have progressive language, but it’s early, and in the end, it comes down to the language we agree on.”

Members of Unit 4 have made it clear that pay is our priority. “We’re going to have a battle over pay,” said Jefferies. “Unit 4 is the face and the backbone of the state. When the public utilizes state services their first contact with a state employee, it’s a Unit 4 classification, be it face-to-face or over the phone.  There are only eight of us at the table, but we need to have all of our represented workers and the people they serve standing behind us.”

Unit 4’s next meeting with the State to win a contract that Respects Us, Protects Us, and Pays Us is set for April 25. To read about what happened in Tuesday’s Bargaining Unit 1, 3, and 17 sessions, please visit the Contract Action Center page at seiu1000.org

There’s real truth to the Local 1000 slogan, Stronger Together. We only win a great contract with a strong Local 1000 membership. So, if you’re not already a member, we encourage you to join us today.