New Contracts Boost Workers, Energize Local

Hundreds of hardworking men and women of AFSCME Local 2227 recently ratified three new contracts, providing not only a boost to members’ paychecks but also serving to protect public service jobs in the future.

The members, who proudly make Florida’s Polk County Public Schools happen, united to pass strong contracts for bus drivers and bus attendants, food service staff and for maintenance, custodial and vehicle services employees.

Along with stopping any harmful changes to employee health care and retirement plans, the contracts will help the local make good progress toward its goal of adding 100 new members by the end of the year. More than 60 new members have already joined and a new membership committee kicked off with the new school year.

Increasing wages was a priority for the union, not only because it puts more money into members’ pockets, but because it will help recruit new employees.

“In recent years we’ve had a problem filling open positions because starting pay in many positions was just not competitive,” said Local 2227 Pres. Larry Milhorne, a carpenter in the maintenance department’s Lake Wales Shop. “When you can’t fill positions, you open yourself up to outsourcing. And when you start getting your jobs outsourced that really could be the death of your union.”

Each contract’s step increases were improved to ensure that all workers will get a pay raise. Also, starting pay is higher, especially for food service employees who saw their starting pay jump from $8.05 an hour to $10 an hour. That increase is expected to entice more people to apply for openings, thereby reducing the threat of outsourcing their work to for-profit companies.

Besides protecting retirement and health care plans from cuts, the contracts included new worker participation provisions -- a new field trip committee for bus drivers and worker input on testing for open maintenance positions.

“We did some good things with these contracts,” said Milhorne. “We saved some jobs, and we’ve already seen the hiring pick up. So I’m confident in saying we met our goals.”