Council Work Session Praises 'Working Together' for Collective Bargaining Agreements

Updated 4 years ago by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Council Work Session Praises 'Working Together' for Collective Bargaining Agreements
Photo: Aaron Michael Fox

Conversation, optimism and trust have worked together to put Huntington on the verge of collective bargaining agreements with both the Huntington Professional Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 289 and Local 598, Council 77 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

During the Thursday, June 20, Work Session, Mayor Steve Williams explained that pay raises were removed from the table. They can be re-opened during the budgeting process. IAFF Local 289 passed the contract by a 56% majority and AFSME Local 598 passed the contract by an 80% super majority.

Teresa Ball, a retired AFL-CIO official, assisted in bringing the parties together.

“The toughest thing was building the trust between management and union workers again. There had been disagreements on both sides”, Ms. Ball said.

Mayor Steve Williams stressed, “We have a partner in helping us with reducing costs and performing their jobs safely”, referring to the firefighters and AFSCME workers”. Representatives from the Institute of Labor Studies will “help train our managers on how to manage a contract”, particularly since many of the administration’s upper level supervisors are new at working within a collective bargaining agreement.

Council member Frances Jackson, who has worked under four administrations, expressed congratulations and pride that these contracts came forth within the first six month of the Williams administration.

“It goes to show what you can accomplish when you work together”, Ms. Jackson said, recalling that AFSCME did not have a contract under three of the prior administrations. “I’m proud of you (Mayor ), Teresa, all the AFSCME workers and the president”.

Recalling the attendance at meetings prior to and after her appointment to council where employees and the administration, and council routinely squabbled over a rubric of issues, council member Joyce Clark noted the new agreements will “create much better morale and communication”.

Mayor Williams indicated, “we had a lot of work to strengthen labor relations”.

Ms. Ball explained that “after getting them to sit down and talk, we found we have the same goals. We sometimes just go at them differently”. By “talking with each other”, she stressed, “we can achieve our goals together”.

For the firefighters, the contract emphasizes job security, seniority, and proper training.

Local 289 president Ray Canafax told HNN, “It’s a good step forward. There’s got to be a measure of trust and this secures that (trust)”.

Asked about the department overtime issues which were volatile under Mayor Kim Wolfe, Canafax stated, “ The overtime issue is improving. Chief Carl Eastham and I have been working on the numbers. We have come up with an example that… stays within the budget and still provides the level of security for which we are hoping”.

OT usage based on the last financial tally was at 91% with 92% of the fiscal year completed.

The AFSCME agreement returns bumping rights, grievance procedures, and job security after a period in which they were essentially at will employees. 

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