One Month In, OPEIU Local 8 Strike Against Union Benefits Provider Continues
Ninety-Five Office and Professional Employees International Union Workers at Welfare and Pension Administration Services in Mercer Island, Washington have been on strike since August 23rd. The workers, in contract negotiations with the company for a year, and working without a contract for the last 8 months, struck after unanimously rejecting the company’s last best offer in August.
OPEIU Local 8 lead negotiator Amanda Montoya:
[Amanda Montoya]: “The attacks are on benefits, medical, retirement…and then also, a very important feature is also our seniority rights in our contract which provide a very fair and objective process for various working conditions such as layoff, vacations, shift changes, transfers and promotions. The employer wanted to move medical plans where there’s more out of pocket expense on the employees…it’s a more costly plan for the employees but less costly for the employer as well. They want to increase the eligibility…we have one part-time employee in the bargaining unit and it would prevent them from having medical benefits.”
The workers are also trying to re-establish their retirement plan, their pension replaced by a 401K plan last year. Local 8 bargaining team member Ukilia Thomas is frustrated by the company’s intransigence, given that the workers administrate medical, dental and vision coverage and pensions for regional unions from Alaska to California:
[Ukilia Thomas] “We are union, and we have a union within the company and they’re trying to break their own union. All of our clients are union based and they know the ins and outs of how it works. [A little frustrating.] And especially since we’ve put all these extra hours in. We supported the company when there was a recession. We did four hour workdays and we’ve given up our pension and we’ve put in extra hours when they’ve let employees go. And that appreciation isn’t reciprocated, it’s a little frustrating.”
With the strike nearing its fifth week and negotiations resuming as early as Tuesday, Montoya says the workers are staying strong on the picket line:
[Amanda Montoya]: “The employees have such a strong showing of solidarity. They all understand that we need to stick together and be in it until we can get a fair contract.”