In 2017, the 1,800 classified employees of West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) voted overwhelmingly to become members of Teamsters 856. And in June, they ratified their first contract as Teamsters, proving what can happen when working people stand together.
“Just one year ago we were welcoming these new members into Local 856,” said Principal Officer Peter Finn. “And now these members have ratified a contract they can be proud of that will positively impact their lives and their families’ lives.”
Gary Abeyta is a head custodian for WCCUSD and he was a part of the team that worked to bargain their first Teamsters 856 contract. “I figured whether we win, lose or draw, we needed the opportunity to get into the fight.”
“We kept fighting and wouldn’t back down,” said Monica Byrd, a campus security officer, shop steward, and member of the bargaining team. “By not budging on certain proposals, they saw that we were serious. It was time to even the playing field and get what we deserve.”
Under the terms of the agreement, WCCUSD Teamsters will receive a wage increase every year of the three-year contract. The District will pay 80% of Kaiser health care costs this year, increasing to 90% in 2019 under a comparable Kaiser plan sponsored by the Teamsters Health Fund.
“The cost of healthcare was eating up our paychecks. People with families were paying almost $500 a month,” said Monica. “We save so much under the Teamsters Health Fund that it’s like a raise. The savings will add about $100 to my grocery budget each month.”
The agreement also guarantees pro-rated benefits for part-time employees, fair pay for bus monitor work, mandates a fair testing process and range increases for food service workers, and expands the WCCUSD apprenticeship program.
“Allowing for a lengthened testing period for food service workers with an incentive to earn a higher range once the test is passed will help fill vacancies in food service,” said Veronica Diaz, Teamsters 856 representative. “Our hope is that with a complete staff, workers’ compensation injuries will go down and morale will go up.”
Sandra Ramirez has worked for the District for 16 years, most recently as a lunch worker. She is excited about what the changes to the Food Safe Certification mean for employees in her classification. “I’ve been telling my co-workers that this is why it’s important that we support our union because now we can see the difference a strong union can make,” she said.
“It was absolutely awesome to be part of the process,” said Janice Grant, an instructional assistant who served on the negotiations team. “Going through a bargaining session then coming back and sharing the information with my co-workers made me feel proud.”
That sense of pride and empowerment echoed throughout the District. “I’m proud that we took big steps forward instead of little steps backwards,” said Gary.