After months of contentious negotiations, meter readers at RG&E in Rochester, N.Y., are now covered under their first collective bargaining agreement with Heath Consultants, a Texas-based subcontractor that performs meter reading and other services nationwide.
The newest members of Local 118 stood strong when the original subcontractor lost its bid to Health Consultants shortly after the workers voted to join the union in 2013, said Andrew Ottenschot, an RG&E meter reader who led the organizing effort for the 60-person unit.
“Shortly after the vote we found out our employer had lost their bid with RG&E. Health Consultants immediately began a campaign against the Teamsters, petitioning the NLRB in an attempt to decertify our union election,” Ottenschot said. “It was a long and difficult process to receive union recognition, but justice finally came when the company was ordered back to the negotiating table. Despite the odds against us, we managed to stay united.”
The wait and solidarity would pay off at the bargaining table, said Ottenschot, noting he shows his Teamster pride by wearing a pin on his uniform while on the job. The three-year agreement contains guaranteed (and retroactive) wage increases along with incentive programs. In addition, the agreement provides significant job protection, seniority rights and dispute resolution language including binding arbitration.
“Despite the company attempting to break the unity of the group, the workers knew the best way to get ahead was to stay united and win a first contact. We have much more work to do, but we now have a solid contract to work from,” said Local 118 President Paul Markwitz. “I couldn’t be prouder of this unit and the gains they have made in their first Teamster contract. This is a great cornerstone for future contracts.”