Choosing to Grow in Florida’s ‘City of Choice’

Bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other three by suburban sprawl, Florida’s Hallandale Beach has marketed itself as Broward County’s “City of Choice.” For the hardworking women and men of AFSCME Local 2009 who have turned that marketing phrase into a strong sense of community, the choice they faced when negotiating a new contract was to either accept the status quo or to win recognition for the hard work they do.

“Some people just want to accept whatever they get in a contract because they think the city knows how hard we work and whatever they offer is obviously what is fair,” said Local 2009 Pres. Paulemond Mompremier, a park maintenance technician for almost 18 years.

Since almost two-thirds of eligible workers are already members, and Local 2009 has been at the forefront of fighting to protect community services and their jobs, the focus was on getting a large turnout for the ratification vote.

The three-year contract, overwhelmingly approved by the membership, is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2015. It allows members to keep up economically while fully maintaining city-paid, quality health coverage. It also continues the popular education reimbursements for both undergraduate and post-graduate studies so members can continue to expand their professional opportunities.

Some of the key contract wins include annual wage increases of 2.5 percent, a new safe driver recognition program that rewards incident-free driving with administrative safety leave, a health retirement account worth almost $1,000 annually, the opportunity for evaluation bonuses, and 20 to 25 percent increases for uniform and tool allowances.

The bargaining team wasn’t able to win everything, such as increasing the city’s 401(k) match or reclassifying certain jobs into bargaining unit positions. But members are committed to achieving these goals. Building power through organizing is one way they will do that.

“People need to remember that if you don’t unite and stand up for your own job and your own career, your efforts may not be justly recognized when there are always more needs than resources to match them,” said Mompremier.