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Taking fight public nets strong contract for Indiana local

Photo credit: AFSCME Local 2487

With a vote in the last week of 2022, the Bloomington, Indiana, City Council approved the pay raises that AFSCME members fought hard to win in their contract last year.

Low wages and staffing shortages were the key issues the members of AFSCME Local 2487 (Council 962) sought to resolve when they sat down with the city to negotiate the contract last year.

“We have more than 700 vehicles and seven mechanics. So we’re in dire need,” said Stephen French, a master equipment operator in the city’s Sanitation Department.

The difficulty of the work and the low pay was making hiring new workers hard, and retaining them proved even harder.

“When the real-feel temperature was minus 30 degrees last week, we were out there picking up trash,” French said during an interview Thursday.

The local fought hard for the contract. According to members of the negotiating team, the city’s bargaining representatives were hard to reach and quick to end meetings.

“It was a lot of short, basically one-sided meetings at first” said Ryan Hillenburg, treasurer of Local 2487 and a fleet master technician for the City of Bloomington.

But the members didn’t give up. In fact, they stepped up their activism, holding rallies and enlisting the community’s support, garnering news coverage along the way.

“We kept showing up to City Council meetings, (kept) speaking up. We showed them we were serious and we were going to keep coming,” Hillenburg said.

It was a learning experience for new members, who had not been around for a serious contract fight.

“We told everyone – to get what you want, you’ve got to show up and keep showing up,” said French.

In the end, the efforts moved bargaining along.

“We were able to show the public what we go through,” said French.

The contract fixed many of the issues the workers faced, including low wages. Workers won raises of 5% in 2023 and 2024, then 3.1% in 2025 and 2026. They also won grade adjustments for some classifications that resulted pay increases up to 21%.

Those raises will help curb worker attrition.

Workers also said additional certifications they obtained were not fairly valued, so they fought for and won changes to the compensation for certifications in several roles. For instance, commercial driver’s license holders will get a dollar more per hour. In the Wastewater Department, workers raised their additional pay for certifications to $5 an hour.

Workers also won a one-time $1,000 bonus per person and will get Juneteenth as an official paid holiday.

“There was a large exodus happening,” said Hillenburg. “We slowed that down quite a bit. Members are staying in their jobs and in the union.”

French said, “The contract is a strong start. We’re going to keep pushing, keep fighting, but it’s a good start for us.”

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