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Never Underestimate a Well-Run Ratification Campaign

When you win a good contract, it often speaks for itself. But what if pay is not something you can bargain over? In Jacksonville, members showed what a strong ratification campaign can look like for expanding our voice and our union.

Negotiating a pay raise is not the only way to attract new members, as two AFSCME Florida locals – 1328 and 1781 – demonstrated recently. 

The latest round of contract talks between the locals and University of Florida Health Jacksonville focused on members’ health benefits. The two sides agreed to delay negotiations over pay until later this year. 

By communicating clearly and often with all public service employees they represent for the duration of their strong ratification campaign, the two locals gained a total of at least 33 new members over just a couple of days in North Florida earlier this month.

Members bargained with management at UF Jacksonville Health as uncertainty swirled around health care funding because of the disastrous Republican health care bill in Congress and, on the state level, due to Gov. Rick Scott’s continued attacks on quality public health programs. 

“It was a mutual decision to take any negotiations around pay off the table for now and come back to it in November,” said Lorenzo Sheppard, a maintenance mechanic and president of Local 1328.

So, instead, the negotiations centered on insurance benefits and, in this, members were able block any increase in the employee cost for medical, vision and dental insurance. They also will now be allowed to have virtual doctor visits covered by their plan.

“That uncertainty around health care and what our families may be facing in a year or two, we knew we needed to hold the line and make sure we secured some stability,” said Sheppard.

Leading up to the negotiations, the bargaining team had been delivering a simple but powerful message to their coworkers: We are stronger at the table when we have more members united in our locals. That message and constant updates on the negotiations were delivered through flyers and, most importantly, one-on-one conversations.

“People were looking to see if we could deliver on our promise of a strong contract even without any discussion of pay on the table. So when we brought back peace of mind, that was something well worth signing a membership card,” Sheppard said.

He added that members are taking the lessons they learned into the next round of negotiations, when the focus will be on economic issues. This time, AFSCME’s voice at the table will be even stronger thanks to a bigger and more united union.

And that’s the AFSCME difference in action. 

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