Local 96 in Suitland, Md. negotiated a strong contract that was overwhelmingly ratified by Teamsters at Washington Gas on June 11. More than 600 Teamsters are covered by the contract, which features many improvements.
Teamsters at Washington Gas do an assortment of jobs, including aboveground and underground construction, putting in new gas lines, fixing gas lines, installing and reading meters, emergency calls and more.
“Pretty much anything gas related, these Teamsters do,” said Wilder Reed, President of Local 96 in Suitland, Md.
AltaGas, a Canadian Utility, acquired WGL Holdings—parent company of Washington Gas—and is gradually taking control of the company. Negotiators for the employer were from AltaGas.
The local kept the members involved with detailed negotiation updates, rallies and other events.
“We wanted members to be completely in the know on everything going on in negotiations. It helps them know they are a part of this and keeps them motivated,” Reed said. “Everyone stayed involved and united. Thanks to the solidarity of these members, we negotiated a strong contract.”
When the employer demanded that Teamsters choose between a lowball wage offer or massive health care cuts, the members voted to strike. With 97 percent of the members voting to authorize a strike, it sent a clear message of Teamster power.
Shortly after authorizing a strike, the bargaining committee reached a tentative agreement that addressed the priority issues of members.
The contract includes increases of more than 15 percent over five years (with 1 percent up front as a $1,000 bonus for each Teamster), and the company originally proposed raises of 1 percent a year. The contract also protects no-layoff protections, which the company wanted to eliminate. There are other improvements in the contract to the probationary period, procedures for promotions, reimbursements and more, which you can read about on the Local 96 website.
The contract also protects quality, affordable health care but includes some increases in co-pays and maximum out-of-pocket costs, but they will be phased in over time and will help keep premium costs down. These changes are more than offset by the wage increases.
“We rallied against layoffs and givebacks and made our voices heard,” said Dontee Figueroa, a Local 96 member at Washington Gas. “Together, we showed that we are essential, not disposable!”