The vote is underway. King County Teamsters have begun casting their ballots on their contract. The voting is the culmination of a year of bargaining, starting at the coalition level and concluding with small table negotiations.

Voting kicked off last week for several King County groups. The first vote meeting for all units was held on Saturday at our union hall in Tukwila. You can access a schedule of all the meeting times and locations here.

Lester Van Gelder, a wastewater treatment supervisor and shop steward who participated in coalition bargaining, encouraged his co-workers to participate. “It’s extremely important - this is affecting your livelihood,” he said.

“If you’re not voting, you’re not getting heard,” added Bobby Stalnaker, a steward in the security screener’s unit. “This is a chance for you to get your voice out there.”

"If you’re not voting, you’re not getting heard."

Members are voting both on a Master Labor Agreement (MLA), which was negotiated last year between our Coalition of Unions and the County, and their individual bargaining unit’s appendix agreements.

The MLA consolidates language from contracts across the county into one unified contract.

Mary Jane Friel, a county utility worker who served on the bargaining committee, said she is pleased with the results. “We were especially proud to change the language around discipline, the sunset clause. We fought really hard for that. And the boot allowance is important for our group.”

Stalnaker pointed to the wage increase as significant. “People always want to make sure they are keeping up with the cost of living,” he said. The MLA provides a 3.25% wage increase for members of bargaining units who vote to approve the agreement.

If you haven’t had a chance to vote, you can access a summary of the highlights of the MLA as well as a redline document of the agreement on our Teamsters website. Contract summary documents and the redline versions for individual units can also be found online.

“A lot of people have had questions," Friel said. "We’ve been able to go through our contract right along with the MLA. Voting affects everything we do on the job. It impacts our sick leave, our vacation, our special duty - everything. It’s important because it gives us the ability to support our families.”

This year voter engagement is especially important given the attacks we are facing as union members. An impending Supreme Court case, Janus v AFSCME, will almost certainly take away the freedom of public employees to negotiate union security clauses in their contracts as early as this spring.

If this occurs, County employees would be able to abandon their membership, but continue to receive all of the benefits of representation without having to pay for it. As with public employee unions in Wisconsin, our union could lose resources, contracts could become weaker, and the membership divided.

To fight back, members are talking to members about Janus, signing commitment cards and reaffirming their commitment to each other. For more information about the Janus case, who's behind it, and how to protect our union, visit www.FamilyStrengthCommunity.org