In August, Teamsters who work for Nobles County Courthouse, Human Services, and Library were engaged in combative negotiations with their employer. The central issue was over retroactive pay or retro pay. Retroactive or retro pay refers to income owed to employees from previous pay periods.
The collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) or labor contracts for the groups had expired on December 31, 2017, and the County dragged its feet on many important issues which forced negotiations for the new CBAs several months past the expiration date.
It’s typical for most employers to provide retro pay for wage and benefit increases negotiated into the new CBA back to the effective date. For the Nobles County Teamsters, the effective date for the new CBAs is January 1, 2018. The County refused to negotiate retro pay for its employees when the other contentious items were wrapping up in early August. The Chief Negotiator for the Teamsters, Local 320 Business Agent Hannah Bernardson, knew it was wrong for the County to not commit to making the Teamster employees whole. It was then that she enlisted the help of Local 320 Secretary-Treasurer Brian Aldes to solve the dilemma that the County put their employees into.
“It was not the employees’ fault that their employer pressed negotiations long past due,” says Bernardson.
Through one grueling day of mediation and with a looming walkout from the two bargaining units, the employer eventually agreed to provide retro pay for its Teamster employees on August 16, 2018. Even then, the County clung to its position that it does not have a practice for negotiating retro pay. The County only agreed to proceed with the retro pay to the effective date as long as the Teamsters signed a non-binding statement that the “Union will endeavor to complete negotiations by the end of the contract period in future years.”
“The statement is only about the County saving face,” says Aldes. “The most important aspect of these tense negotiations was how the Teamster membership stood together!”
Denise Reith, Teamster Steward and negotiating committee member from the Nobles County Library, said she had never seen her fellow co-workers step up like they did.
“For the first time in my five years with the County I finally witnessed a strong showing of solidarity amongst my colleagues,” says Reith. “We must keep up the momentum when we negotiate our next contract!”
The CBAs were ratified overwhelmingly by the groups on August 23, 2018.