AFSCME Members Secure Back Pay After State Supreme Court Victory

AFSCME Local 161 members and retirees are finally able to put some of the Great Recession behind them after they won a case that went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Now, members and retirees will soon be receiving checks for their share of a $800,000 settlement. 

In 2010, members were negotiating a new contract in the midst of an economic downtown that caused budget cuts in state and local governments around the country, including the City of Hialeah. Members felt the concessions being sought were too much, but they continued to negotiate and never quit serving their community. The City declared an impasse and requested a hearing with a special magistrate through the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC). Shortly after, the city passed a resolution resulting in an almost 30% reduction in wages and an increase in the cost to employees in participation of the health insurance plan. 

“The City was clearly afraid we were going to win and so they tried to change the rules in the middle of the game,” said David Alonso, president of AFSCME Local 161 and a foreman in the city's Water and Sewer department. “But, AFSCME members don’t let our rights be taken from us without a fight so we filed an unfair labor practice charge that the City failed to bargain in good faith, and we won.” 

But their fight wasn’t close to done. Even after their 2011 victory, the City continued to appeal and drag out the process, year after year as members continued to go without the compensation they deserved. 

“Throughout this entire process we kept the financial health of the City in mind,” said Alonso. “While our members and retirees deserve the more than $1.8 million over the relevant period, we know that is not realistic. So, while we pushed hard, we also were practical, and we feel the final settlement we won reflects that.” 

Local 161 members had to deal with multiple lawsuits and delays from not just the City but other interest groups as well, all wanting their say in not just how large of a settlement there would be but also who would get a share of that money. But their focus on a fair and workable settlement that went to the workers who had been directly impacted by the City’s actions kept winning at all levels, all the way to the 3rd District Court of Appeal and, finally, to the Florida Supreme Court. 

Finally, last month the Supreme Court agreed with the arguments made by AFSCME Florida Council 79 attorney Stacy Wein that the Court should deny to review one final lawsuit and the members can celebrate a hard fought victory. 

“At the end of the day, this is not just about winning this case, it is about showing that we will fight hard to uphold our contract and that we will do so in a way that puts the needs of our members, their families and the community we serve first,” said Alonso.