After several months at the bargaining table, IBEW 1245 members at Sunoptics have succeeded in securing their very first union contract. The workers voted on Sept. 9 to approve the new two-year contract, which contains long-overdue wage increases, lump sum payments and many new and improved benefits that the workers have never had before.
Most Sunoptics employees had not seen a raise in 5 years, so for them, wages were the top priority. Under the new contract, all Sunoptics workers will see a wage increase, lump sum payment or both over the next two years. Associates currently at the starting wage of $12.50 will receive a 4% wage increase the first year, and another 4% wage increase the second year, bringing their total wage up to $13.52.
All other associates who are currently earning less than the contract wage rate will receive a wage increase of 3% the first year and an additional 2% the second year to bring them up to contract wage rate. Employees who are over the contract wage rate in the first and/or second year will receive a lump sum payment of 2% of annual base pay each year.
In addition to the wages, the employees will be getting two additional holidays and improved language regarding “bank hours” that will enable them to carry over and sell back bank hours from the current rate of $10 to up to $17.
The new contract ensures that workers with seniority will have the protections and benefits they’ve earned when it comes to job bidding, layoff/demotion, promotions, rebids and shift selection. And for the first time, the workers have an official grievance procedure, including legal binding arbitration and full-time representation from shop stewards, business reps and IBEW 1245 attorneys.
The Sunoptics employees narrowly rejected the first contract offer (36-28) in late July, but the bargaining team — comprised of IBEW staffers Ray Thomas and Cruz Serna, along with Sunoptics workers Todd Davis, Chris Hanh, Mauricio Centeno and Pamela Pendleton — has been working nonstop to get a better offer for these new members. The final, member-approved version of the contract passed with overwhelming support by a vote of 62-7.
“The feedback we got from the employees was very positive,” said Serna, the IBEW 1245 business representative for the Sunoptics workers. “They acknowledge the major changes and improvements to their working conditions, and even though they did not get all of the wages they had hoped for, what is more important right now is to have a contract in place and to look forward to the future.”