Prospering in a "Right to Work State"by County & City Employee Staff on June 29, 2018
Council 2 currently represents two Locals in Right to Work Idaho. The City of Coeur D’ Alene Local 433 and the City of Lewiston Local 1124. Both local unions in a voluntary membership state continue to prosper and represent their members with a better than 90% membership participation.
How is it done? They work at it and work at it. The leadership of the City of Coeur D’ Alene Local 433 is serious about making sure members and all employees know what is at stake. Nick Goodwin, President; Jason Hendricks, Vice-President; and Keith Clemans, member of Council 2 Executive Board; asked what is more important than maintaining an organization that can keep your wages, benefits and conditions of employment fair for everyone?
In the state of Idaho, there is not a state collective bargaining law like there is in Washington. In the case of Coeur D’ Alene, a city collective bargaining ordinance was placed in effect in the early 80’s.
As it goes they lost the right to bargain under the ordinance in 1998 when a less than pro-union City Council rescinded the legislation.
The group had just affiliated with Council 2 from a standalone association. The City Council determined they needed to put a stop to this AFL-CIO full-fledged Labor Union.
The Local Union members and Council 2 sprang into action and gained enough signatures to place the collective bargaining ordinance on the City ballot during the next election.
With the establishment of the City which included the local newspaper supporting the removal of the ordinance, the members of Local 433 doorbelled, placed yard signs, talked to their neighbors and prevailed.
The ordinance was placed back on the books with a better than 60% approval by the citizens of
Coeur D’ Alene. Since that low point, both sides have worked to build a relationship out of respect and the “give and take of the bargaining process”. It is working well now with both sides, going the extra distance to make sure it continues.
In a recent “Coeur D’ Alene Press” article that was not meant to be flattering, they cited that the City of Coeur D’ Alene employees were some of the highest paid city employees in Idaho.
Something must be working and it is the Union.
The Local leadership stresses the fact that one on one discussions with new employees are essential to gaining their participation. The City has agreed to allow union information at new employee orientation. Many can cite a reason why they should save money on dues, but they come around when the shortsightedness. of the decision is explained.
This is our organization, our club and the good work that we pursue is maintaining and bettering our wages, benefits and conditions of employment. There is nothing more important to the well-being of our families than what our livelihoods provide.
One item that they also stressed was the clear recognition the City and the Local Union placed on a safe work environment. Nick Goodwin, Local President, who started on a private sector construction crew, stated the difference is “dramatic” and naturally welcomed. Both sides pay attention.
There is a clear understanding by the members that “numbers mean clout” and clout means better contracts. Keeping up participation is an everyday project.
We try to keep everyone informed and involved. Contracts are not negotiated in the dark.
The Local sponsors' activities from time to time and a yearly BBQ occurs every summer. Turn out is good and it builds a culture that we are all friends working together.
Keith Clemans, Council 2 Executive Board member, states that from time to time we have had special meetings where we’ve invited the few non-members to attend. On one occasion, when a couple showed up with the predictable less than agreeable attitude we showed them the door.
We hope providing them with union information would convince them to join, and in many instances, we’ve been successful. We try to explain that you are not only hurting yourself but all the rest of the individuals in the local union.
The bottom line is the Union can continue and prosper even in a “Right to Work” environment. Coeur D’ Alene and Lewiston have shown the way and they have been doing it for years.
If we have to Washington local government can too!