Members of Teamsters Local 117, employed at Workforce Central in Tacoma, have voted to forgo their contractual rights and significantly reduce their hours in order to prevent layoffs, which would have otherwise resulted during the federal government shutdown.
Without concessions by union members, the Tacoma-based agency, which relies heavily on federal funding to support its education and training programs for low-income adults, would have had to lay off over one third of its employees after $1.6 million in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funding dried up last week.
The Teamsters met with representatives of the organization on October 2 and negotiated a tentative agreement in the form of an MOU to prevent layoffs through a significant reduction in staff hours. Members voted by 80% to approve the agreement on October 3.
According to the MOU, all staff hours will be reduced to 32 hours for the week of October 7, and then down to 24 hours thereafter.
“Members of Teamsters 117 collaborated with Workforce Central to save jobs that are essential to the economic viability of the community,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “Our members recognized the gravity of the situation caused by the federal shutdown and made concessions to maintain the agency’s employment programming for low-income adults.”
Under the terms of the workers’ collective bargaining agreement, Workforce Central is required to provide twenty-one calendar days written notice prior to implementing layoffs or pay workers in lieu of notice. The agency is also required to lay off employees according to seniority when faced with funding shortages.
By forgoing their contractual rights, union members have allowed Workforce Central to continue to serve the public. The agency’s hours of operation will remain unchanged.
“We wanted what’s best for the organization and the community,” said Freda Cogger, an employee who has been with the agency since 1997. “We care about each other and wanted to do what’s best all the way around.”