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AFSCME Florida’s newest members work for the tiny Town of Surfside

A photo of the Surfside shoreline. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
AFSCME Florida’s newest members work for the tiny Town of Surfside
By Mark McCullough ·
Tags: Victories

AFSCME Florida’s newest members work for Surfside, a South Florida town that is just one square mile and stretches nine blocks along the Atlantic Ocean.

Town workers voted overwhelmingly to ratify their first contract last month.

“Having our union will help to make sure that everyone gets treated fairly, make sure nobody is responsible for work that they shouldn’t be doing in the first place. It is helping finally bring some fair compensation for the work we are doing,” said Willie Perez, a parking enforcer and member of the bargaining team. “We felt we needed protection from some of the policies and personnel we had to deal with so we didn’t have to fear for our jobs.”

For Perez, who has worked for Surfside for 26 years, the contract is a bright spot in a town that is trying hard to move on from the tragedy that made Surfside infamous. On June 24, 2021, Champlain Towers South, a 12-story condominium building, collapsed, causing 98 deaths. It was just three weeks after Perez and his co-workers voted in favor of forming their union.

“That whole period was very tough on everyone and is still tough on everyone,” said Perez. “This is a small and friendly town. We knew people who lived in that building. And it came while we were already stretched thin by COVID-19.”

Highlights of the workers’ first contract include clear grievance and evaluations procedures, protections for assignments outside of one’s duties and immediate adjustments to correct years of below-market compensation. It also includes a total pay increase of 13% pay over the three-year contract, longevity bonuses, additional holidays, payroll dues deduction and better scheduling policies. The 28-member Surfside unit is small but the bargaining unit could be expanded to include 47 additional workers.

“At the end of the day, this is about both our own future and the legacy we are going to leave for those who come after us,” said Perez. “As AFSCME members, we know that through strength and solidarity, we can take on any challenge.”

Watch AFSCME Florida’s video about the why Surfside’s workers formed a union and what having a contract means for them.

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