Grafton County, New
UE Local 278
Reaches First Contract
With County Nursing Home;
Dept. of Corrections
NORTH HAVERHILL, N.H.
(from left) Local 278 negotiators included Florence Frost, nursing home,
Florentine, corporal, corrections; Sylvia Martin, nursing home, certified nurses aide;
and Robert Morin, corporal, corrections. Below: the committee takes a
A year of bargaining — and grassroots, UE-style political
action — locked up first contracts for new UE Local 278 with Grafton County,
N.H. for the Grafton County Nursing Home and the Department of Corrections.
The UE negotiating committees and the Grafton County Commissioners signed the
agreements on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2000.
County employees represented by Local 278, who work at the
same complex here, will receive wage increases totaling $1.80 over three years
as well as on-the-job protection.
The Corrections Dept. employees voted to be represented by the
UE on Sept. 30, 1999, followed on Nov. 29, 1999 by the Nursing Home staff. The
new UE members quickly established a union stewards system, which has been
resolving problems even without a contract in place.
HARD WORK AND SOLIDARITY
Bargaining for the first contracts became a long process, with
success made possible by a lot of hard work and solidarity amongst the local
The locals contracts were bargained separately, but when the
economic issues were discussed many meetings were held jointly. Negotiations
progressed slowly but steadily until June. Major differences remained on key
Wages, health insurance (the County wanted employees to start
paying for some of their insurance premiums), holidays (the union wanted to
regain the Martin Luther King holiday taken from them in 1999 prior to the
organizing drive), performance evaluations (employees wanted a fair system of
evaluations), union security (the Commissioners demanded an open shop),
grievance procedure (the Commissioners demanded advisory arbitration, with the
right to overturn the decision), discipline and discharge (the Commissioners
would not agree to just cause), management rights, and drug and alcohol policy
(the union could not agree until other issues were resolved).
When it became apparent that these issues would not be
resolved easily, the union declared an impasse on July 10, opening the door
for a public campaign to put pressure on the County.
In the early stages of negotiations Local 278 members wore
ribbons and stickers, and put signs in their cars. Once the impasse was
declared, other activities included informational picketing outside the
Commissioners’ Office, delegations of workers to Executive Director’s
Office, delegations of community supporters to the Commissioners’ meetings,
two candlelight vigils and radio ads. Community support came through in
petitions, letters and phone calls from concerned citizens to the
Commissioners. Large lawn signs appeared outside the house next to the
Commissioners’ Office, which just happened to be the home of a correctional
Perhaps one of the most effective actions was a postcard
campaign, in which family, friends and community supporters participated. More
than 1,800 post cards were mailed to the homes of the three Commissioners and
to the Executive Director’s office.
After the impasse was filed with the New Hampshire Public
Employees Labor Relations Board (PELRB), a mediator met with the County and
the UE in an attempt to resolve the outstanding issues holding up the
contract, but no resolution was reached at that time.
An unfair labor practice charge was filed against the Nursing
Home for implementing mandatory overtime during the time when the status quo
conditions were in effect until a first contract is reached. During a
pre-hearing with the PELRB, the UE and the County agreed to bargain over the
charge prior to the hearing itself, leading to resolution of the issue.
Both parties agreed to return to the bargaining table and work
towards an agreement both sides could live with. A meeting on Nov.14, 2000
resulted in a tentative agreement.
The County’s negotiating committee then had to get approval
from the Commissioners; the Grafton County Delegation had to approve the
settlement and appropriate the necessary funds. UE Local 278 ratified the
agreement as well and the official signing of the contracts took place at the
Commissioners’ meeting on Dec.19, 2000. The pay checks members received on
Thursday, Dec. 21 reflected a wage increase of $.70 per hour, retroactive to
Nov. 5, 2000.
The contract contains numerous improvements for the employees,
who regain the Martin Luther King holiday, and obtain seniority rights and
improvements in job placement. A grievance procedure will include binding
arbitration by a three-person panel, with one member chosen by the County, one
by the union and the third by mutual agreement. Performance evaluations will
now have an appeal step. Under discipline and discharge, the County will
follow the rules for just cause relating to termination. A drug and alcohol
policy involves the local hospital.
Sharp disagreement over union security delayed agreement. From
the beginning the Commissioners had insisted on nothing but more an open shop.
However, the contract establishes maintenance of membership with a "fair
share" clause, meaning that all union members would remain members and
those who chose not to join the union will be charged for the costs of
In addition to the 70-cent first year wage increase already
received, Grafton County employees can look forward to 60 cents an hour the
second year and 50 cents the third year.
Facing insurance rate increases of 20 percent over the last
three years, the County demanded that employees pay a portion of the insurance
premium. The union’s goal was no employee payments. Local 278 drastically
reduced the amount of contributions demanded by the County and secured wage
increases that more than covered the cost of contributions eventually included
in the settlement.
Beginning July 1, employee insurance contributions will range
from $12.50 for a single plan to $55 a month for a family plan —
considerably below the level of contributions originally demanded by county
officials. With wages increased far more than the level of contributions —
by $208 a month for a 40-hour week in the first year — UE members felt they
had achieved a fair compromise.
Among other improvements, funeral leave is expanded to include
step-relations. Employees will now be able to use five days of sick leave for
family illnesses and to donate sick days to other employees who have exhausted
their sick leave. Additional time is added to maximum limits in employees’
sick leave reserve.
The UE-Corrections negotiating committee consisted of
Correctional Officer Sue Ingerson, Cpl. Mary Florentine and Cpl.
Bob Morin. The UE-Nursing Home negotiating committee consisted of Florence
Frost, Housekeeping; Sylvia Martin, Certified Nursing Aide (CNA); Kathy
Allen, CNA; Rosie Martel, CNA; and alternate Barb Klingler,
Local 278 was assisted throughout negotiations by Intl. Rep. Kim
Lawson and Field Org. Rachel Clough. District Two Pres. Judy
Atkins attended the candlelight vigil and assisted the local in the final
day of negotiations. Field Org. Rachel Wells also played a major role
in the final weeks leading up to reaching the agreement.
UE News - 01/01