This time last year, the City of Wasco was a chapter with no President, no VP, no secretary and no Shop Stewards. We had poor turnout at general membership meetings, a tyrant for a City Manager and a Financial Director who created stressful working conditions and forced us to work out of classification. The Wasco City Council was also considering becoming a charter city.
Last November, we developed and implemented a Communities First Wasco Coalition comprised of organizations like the Dolores Huerta Foundation, Faith In Action, United Farm Workers, Democratic Women of Kern, California Alliance for Retired Americans, Smart Cities Prevail, The Building Trades Council, The Center for Poverty and Education, Wasco residents and several Wasco Chapter members. This coalition coordinated a series of town halls, including the last town hall where almost 200 community members were present and SEIU 521 members who spoke out against their bosses on the city council. The coalition also collected almost 600 signatures on a petition against the charter.
Once the City Manager saw the power of our union and realized that the community wasn’t going to pass the charter city amendment, he resigned and left the City within a month. With that victory under our belts, we decided to take on the financial director and the City Council got rid of him.
All of this people power helped us get the best contract with ZERO takeaways, a 9% raise over a three-year period and new provisions that give us up to $90 per month for bilingual pay and a new vacation cash out policy.
At a recent city council meeting, the city council voted not to move forward with the charter city amendment and approved our contract. During the meeting, Wasco Chapter President Tony Cortinas walked up to the podium, thanked the city for supporting the community and said, “We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m glad to see Wasco is finally moving in the right direction.” UNION POWER!
Our work is never done though. Now is the time to address work issues, continue our work with management and continue to build our bargaining unit. We can be proud of our work in Wasco for showing everyone how a smaller chapter can impact an entire county and become an empowering model for neighboring cities.