Three days of negotiations over the past week led to a few new agreements and a much better understanding of key remaining issues for the bargaining teams.
A tentative agreement was finally reached on the entirety of the grievance and arbitration procedure, perhaps the most important element of the contract. Without this Article, anything else we are able to achieve would be very difficult to enforce.
Agreement was also reached on a scheduling procedure that would give employees a six-week notice of the center profile. Employees then have a week to supply their managers with their preferences for available shifts. Per the agreement, those preferences must be taken into account when finalizing the schedule for full-timers, which will be posted three weeks in advance. Remaining hours will then be posted on Swapboard.
The actual priority for shift preferences will still be awarded by a performance/seniority matrix, but the criteria for grading is still not finalized. The union’s proposal calls for seniority to account for at least 50% in establishing priority. While the company has not agreed to that proposal, the management bargaining team has not rejected it and has promised to give a counter offer soon. (The union has a separate proposal on the table that would restrict the requirement for log-in time to 70 percent and extend the time allowed between calls. Management has not yet responded to that proposal.)
Also included in the scheduling agreement is a clause that would give relief to Spanish platform interpreters, who have been required to work nearly every weekend and many evening shifts. Unlike English platform interpreters, there has been no real way for these employees to adjust their schedules through Swapboard.
On another front, the company has agreed to “maintain all benefits designed for the comfort and well-being of employees (e.g. quiet rooms; employer supplied coffee and tea; personal storage space; break rooms; break room internet access; etc).”
Many very important issues remain, but the list of agreements after only seven sessions is impressive. Tentative agreements have been reached on the following. Remember, none of these changes take effect until the contract is fully negotiated and ratified by the membership:
– Coverage, which defines the unit and makes it clear that, except under extraordinary circumstances, only unit employees may be assigned the work. This clause is viewed as increasing employee security because the company may not subcontract or outsource the work.
– Dues deduction, which allows an employee to have dues deducted directly from his/her paycheck.
– A clause prohibiting the company from entering into an agreement with another employer banning employment opportunities for Purple employees.
– A non-discrimination clause for “union membership or activity,” or for age, sex, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual or affectional preferences orientation, mental or physical disabilities, or any other basis prohibited by law.
– The grievance and arbitration procedure.
– An article defining seniority.
– A just-cause provision, which also describes an employee’s right to a representative in an investigatory meeting, and allows an employee to respond to adverse material placed in his/her personnel file.
– A clause requiring all shifts assigned by management to be at least two hours unless the employee requests otherwise.
– Extension of personal leave of absence period from 30 to 45 days.
– A military leave provision.
– A requirement for the employer to pay reasonable expenses (with pre-approval) and provide and maintain necessary working equipment.
– Company provided bulletin boards for the exclusive use of the union.
– A provision providing access to centers by union staff representatives.
– A clause requiring the company to provide a legally safe and healthy workplace and to “make reasonable efforts to ansure optimum working conditions.”
– An agreement that the yet-to-be established pay rates will be minimums only. Employees may be granted wages or benefits above those minimums.
– An agreement that if any provision of the contract is held to be in conflict with the law, the remaining provisions will still be in effect.
– An administrative clause concerning where either party is to send notices.
As you can see, your continued support and shows of unity are serving their purpose. In future weeks, depending on the pace and atmosphere at the bargaining table, you may be asked to increase those activities or to engage in new ones. Without your help and support, we are just some people making a pitch for a better workplace. But working together, we will achieve our goal of a fair contract that significantly improves the lives of Purple’s video interpreters.
The two sides will meet again in Denver on June 20 and 21.
Purple Communications Unit
National Bargaining Team:
Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair
Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair
Margie Brooks, Oakland: National Vice Chair
Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair
Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair
Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson
Serving on the bargaining team for all of the sessions was Norma Villegas, San Diego AVC. Joining us for part of the meetings were Laurie Rivard, Oakland AVC; and Steven Joblonski, Oakland LBC.