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Winning a Long-Overdue Raise – and Building Their Union

Jacksonville, Florida’s Local 1279 experienced huge growth in early March thanks to a strong contract campaign for a new multi-year contract.
By Mark McCullough ·
Winning a Long-Overdue Raise – and Building Their Union

JACKSONVILLE, Florida – For too many years, this city’s budget had been balanced on the backs of working families. That includes the backs of members of Local 1279 (AFSCME Florida). Nevertheless, their commitment to serving their communities never wavered, despite cutbacks that made it tough for them to keep up with the rising cost of living.

For almost eight years, their pay remained fixed and, with the lack of improvements to their contract, the strength of their union suffered along with its members.

But those days are over, at least for now. Local 1279 members have a new contract, which they voted overwhelmingly to approve in early March.

The agreement includes wage hikes of 3 percent this fiscal year, followed by increases of 5 percent next year and 4.5 percent in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 respectively. Those raises apply to full- and part-time employees and temporary workers. 

“We were very proud of this contract and knew that the most important thing was to ensure all workers were aware of it and their opportunity to vote yes on it,” said Local 1279 Pres. Victor Jackson, a Jacksonville public service worker for 29 years.

“Moreover,” he added, “we knew this was a chance to show our co-workers how AFSCME was working for them and their families and why a stronger voice could keep the momentum going.”

That effort – involving mailers, flyers, site-visits, phone calls and house visits – more than paid off. Not only did it ensure ratification of the contract, the campaign also sparked a huge increase in membership.

In just a two-week period, Local 1279 grew by 210 members and now boasts 501 members.

Vicki Lenard, a 15-year employee with the city’s library system, said the ratification will allow her and fellow employees keep pace with rising costs for the first time in years.

Donna Faye Wilkerson, who works in the senior services division, said the next steps for the city employees will be to stay engaged with their union to make sure their contract is enforced, ensure that members are treated fairly and that their careers are respected.

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