Strong new contract is the first to ever be negotiated and ratified via Zoom Conferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic
Jamie FlemingEmail: [email protected] Phone: (206) 441-6060
On Saturday morning, a group of freight drivers working at Pozzi Bros. Transportation unanimously ratified the first Teamsters Local 174 contract ever negotiated utilizing 21st century videoconferencing technology in the COVID-19 era. The contract, which runs through 2023, was negotiated entirely via Zoom, and was ratified through a combination of Zoom and strict social distancing – both extremely novel concepts that had never been part of the contract negotiation and ratification process before.
At first, the idea of using videoconferencing to negotiate a contract left Local 174 leadership skeptical, but this pandemic has challenged us and will continue to challenge life as we once knew it. Faced with the reality of needing to continue to represent our members with the sustained service they are accustomed to, we were forced to look for new ways to achieve this goal. As the first contract negotiation to be attempted in this way, the Pozzi Bros. Transportation contract became a sort of test subject, and a very successful one in the end.
The new contract itself represents a major victory for our hardworking members, who have been classified as “essential workers” and who have continued to work through the COVID-19 pandemic. The agreement provides for a strong economic package including wage increases, pension increases, and maintenance of union healthcare; new swing shift and night shift premiums for all members; and access to the newly created Retirees Welfare Trust XL “Plus” Plan, which will save our members thousands of dollars per year.
Negotiations between Local 174 representatives and Pozzi Bros. management took place entirely via Zoom, with all parties remaining at a safe social distance from each other. These online negotiation sessions included document sharing and the ability for the Union side and management side to caucus privately while still on the call, just as they would at in-person negotiations.
The ratification meeting was then held in the Local 174 Union Hall’s large auditorium, which has a capacity of over 300 people. This gave the 27 attendees ample room to spread out and safely socially distant from each other. Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks presented the contract proposal to the members via Zoom, and was able to answer questions from the members before they cast what turned out to be a unanimous vote to ratify the agreement.
“I am absolutely thrilled with this contract – we all are!” said Pozzi Bros. rank-and-file bargaining committee member Shad Buck. “When the COVID-19 pandemic really hit and everything started to get canceled and closed, I wondered what was going to happen with our contract. Would we just get stuck sitting on our hands and waiting until it was safe to negotiate in person? Instead, we found a way to get to an agreement that is among the best we’ve ever seen.”
“This incredible contract victory demonstrates the power of human ingenuity, which is desperately needed right now,” said Teamsters Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks. “When it came time to negotiate this contract with Pozzi Bros. management, we did not want our members trapped in a holding pattern. We needed to get this contract done, and so together with Pozzi Bros. owner Tom Pozzi, we figured out how to negotiate an incredibly strong agreement for our members in a way that kept everyone safe and healthy.”
“We hope that this negotiation serves as a template for how other Teamsters Local 174 contracts can be negotiated and ratified for as long as this pandemic endures,” Hicks continued. “In this way, we can still achieve excellent contracts for our members while also keeping everyone as safe as possible – truly a win-win.”
Founded in 1909, Teamsters Local 174 represents 8,600 working men and women in the Seattle area. “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeamstersLocal174.