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New contract for Miami solid waste workers highlights the union difference

New contract for Miami solid waste workers highlights the union difference
By Mark McCullough ·

MIAMI – After Gov. Ron DeSantis rammed extreme union-busting legislation through the Florida Legislature last year, the members of Local 871 (AFSCME Florida) resolved to fight to retain their union.

They jumped through every hoop, signed and re-signed every new card and were one of the first locals to pass the law’s 60% membership threshold. Today, nearly 85% of the workers in Local 871’s bargaining unit are AFSCME members.

Now, these determined workers have a contract to show what keeping a strong union can do. The workers — who all work for Miami’s solid waste department — recently ratified a new three-year contract with the city. Retroactive to October 2023, it holds the line on their pension and health care costs, strengthens their voice on the job and delivers real wage increases.

“The past few years have seen public service workers come under attack but this contract shows that when you stand up and fight for what is right, you are going to win more times than not,” said Joe Simmons Jr., a waste equipment operator with the city of Miami and president of Local 871.

Workers won 18% wage increases over the life of the contract, almost doubled shift differential pay and negotiated a new top pay grade that’s 5% higher above the previous highest level.

They made sure the new contract contains no changes to their pension or health care coverage and added language shortening the time for the city to respond to labor-management issues to 15 days.

Those doing out-of-classification work can now get a 10% pay increase and a promotion. And the contract increases educational reimbursements by $2,000.

“Our governor and his yes men in the legislature thought that when they passed the most anti-union, anti-worker legislation in Florida history … that we would just sit down and shut up,” said Simmons.

“But they don’t have the sense God gave Adam because every time they say they support workers, stand up for families and want to give people a shot at the American dream, they are lying through their teeth,” he added. “That just made us want to work even harder to show AFSCME members don’t just give up because it is hard.”

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