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Nebraska members negotiate historic pay raises for state employees

NAPE/AFSCME Local 61’s negotiating team secured raises for every state worker in Nebraska. Photo credit: NAPE/AFSCME Local 61.
By Ezra Kane-Salafia ·

Every employee of the state of Nebraska is getting a raise, and they have the members of Nebraska Association of Public Employees (NAPE)/AFSCME Local 61 to thank for it.

In early September, NAPE called for midterm negotiations with the state to address deteriorating working conditions, an ongoing staffing crisis, and an unfair bonus program at 24-hour facilities. Led by seven members, the bargaining team brought the state to the table for negotiations that ran through Oct. 8.

At a town hall for members at 24-hour facilities, the bargaining team and NAPE leadership heard about cascading issues, including understaffing, long hours of mandatory overtime, constantly changing work assignments, wages not keeping up with the market, and unsafe working conditions in prisons and nursing homes.

“The staffing emergency at our veterans' homes, correctional institutions, and state hospitals was acute before the pandemic, and only compounded during the past 18 months” said Justin Hubly, executive director of NAPE. “The staff that worked through the pandemic have been working 16-hour days under difficult conditions day after day."

After almost a month of intensive negotiations, the midterm contract that was approved Monday includes historic pay raises for every single state employee across the board. These midterm raises come on the back of pay increases and step adjustments that were negotiated as part of the new contract late last year. The victory was only possible because of NAPE’s growing strength.

“Because it was a midterm negotiation, we had little recourse if the state refused to bargain. Our members united to demand higher wages,” said Hubly. “Once we were at the table, we were able to leverage the power of our membership to convince the governor's team that higher wages across the board were necessary."

The increases vary by job classification. Highlights include an across-the-board 2% salary increase for all state employees and an additional 1% step increase, a $3/hour raise for all 24-hour employees, a 20% minimum salary increase for 45 job classifications, and a 30% minimum salary increase in health care jobs. Additionally, members negotiated double-time overtime pay and double-and-a half time holiday pay through July 1, as well as sick-time paternity leave, and many more job class-specific increases and adjustments. For more details, go here.

“While all state employees see the largest pay increase in 15 years by July 1, certain job classifications facing critical staffing shortages will see even larger raises on November 8,” noted Hubly. “Our member-led negotiating team spoke to the urgent need for these pay increases and the governor’s team knew they had a united membership behind them.”

And that is the union difference in action.

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