May 31, 2024

Wilmington city workers look out for undervalued positions

When AFSCME Local 1909 started bargaining a new contract for its 19 members—most of them employees in the public works and water and sewer departments—they wanted to look out for maintenance workers in particular.

The maintenance position had become what Local 1909 President Jack Sadrakula, a sewer plant operator of eight years, called a “dead-end” position. Despite being jacks-of-all-trades who could fix any machinery the city has, their pay would stagnate after five years.

“Some of these job classifications had been made decades earlier and hadn’t received any meaningful changes to keep up with the times,” Sadrakula said. “We wanted to negotiate with management so they would better mirror the pay scales in water and sewer.”

In the final contract ratified by members, Local 1909 was able to shift the pay scales for maintenance titles into the scales of higher-paying public works titles. The result is wage increases of as much as 35% for some in those titles.

There were across-the-board wins too. The local added a 15-year step for some of the long-time administrative workers at city hall, codified more accurate schedules that track closer to what people actually work, and strengthened rights surrounding disciplinary actions against employees.

“A lot of our new members came away seeing what organized labor can do and how it can impact members’ benefits and rights,” Sadrakula said. “This contract was pushed through by the entire union. I see a lot of happy people out there.”

The bargaining committee included Sadrakula, Maureen Surman, Ryan Foster, Dan Seaton, Josh Davis and was led by Council 31 Staff Representative Chris Moore.

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