When the City of Vallejo declared bankruptcy in 2008, the city’s municipal workers and their union, IBEW Local 2376, were among the hardest hit. They struggled for nearly a decade to regain footing without much traction.
“We’ve had a lot of challenges under the bankruptcy,” said Local 2376 Business Manager Eleanor Brown. “Our members haven’t gotten a raise since 2008, and the City keeps telling us that they don’t have the money. We don’t believe they’ve been totally forthcoming with their financial projections, but we just haven’t had the resources to challenge their fiscal forecast and budget with our own actuarial.”
Brown, a 23-year member of Local 2376 who has served as Business Manager for the past four years, wanted to do what’s best for her members, and so when she was approached by Local 1245 about the possibility of merging Local 2376 in with Local 1245, she took it under serious consideration.
“Local 1245 is a nationally recognized local, with lots of strength and political influence,” said Brown. “I made the decision [to start the merger process] simply because I know it would mean more resources at our disposal, as well as more strength for us, and also for 1245. The union is all about solidarity, and we are always stronger when we stand together.”
Brown took the merger idea to the Local 2376 Executive Board, and with their blessing, she invited Local 1245 leaders to come and speak directly with the members of Local 2376. Business Manager Tom Dalzell, Assistant Business Manager Ray Thomas and Business Rep Jennifer Gray presented to the 2376 membership, and the members were able to ask questions and get a better sense of the Local that they were considering joining.
“After listening to the presentation and learning about how 1245 would influence the makeup of our organization, our members voted a couple of weeks later, and the result was 96% in favor of the merger,” said Brown. “They didn’t make this decision because they’re disgruntled, but because we’ve been going in circles for the last 10 years and there hasn’t been any progress. But now that we are joining up with 1245, it’s going to make us so much stronger, and everyone is really excited about it.”
An Asset to Our Local
Local 2376 represents 221 active employees at the City of Vallejo in every non-management classification, from clerical workers, to engineers, to building inspectors, to water department workers, to dispatchers, to housing department workers and more. The merger will make the City of Vallejo one of the few “wall-to-wall” properties represented by Local 1245.
The Vallejo members recently secured a one-year contract with the City, but that round of negotiations did not address any economic issues, and Brown has faith that with Local 1245’s resources and Assistant Business Manager Ray Thomas serving as chief negotiator, this next round of negotiations is certain to be more fruitful.
“We’re very encouraged by how the negotiation process is going this time around, and we’ve only just gotten started. Ray is really knowledgeable and well-respected in the industry,” said Brown. “We are definitely looking forward to having the resources to do our own fiscal analysis.”
“We are pleased to welcome our brothers and sisters from the City of Vallejo to 1245. These hard-working men and women are sure to be an asset to our Local,” said IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell. “We are confident that we can achieve more gains as one large and united Local than they would have been able to secure otherwise, and we are committed to working tirelessly to make sure they get the wages and benefits that they deserve.”