The hardworking bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, and other support staff for Florida’s Manatee County School District – that is, the workers who keep the district functioning smoothly – have ratified a historic agreement that provides substantial raises for all employees and significant improvements in working conditions.
The new contract for Local 1584 (AFSCME Florida) was approved by nearly 90 percent of workers who voted last month and is just the latest win for this rapidly growing local. It shows that workers can build power even in right-to-work states like Florida, where AFSCME’s recommitment to organizing is reaping dividends.
“This year’s negotiations were arduous at times but ultimately, our concerns were addressed, and steps taken to improve our environment," said Local 1584 Vice President Alfreda Mitchell. “Our union is growing in strength and numbers and we are looking forward to a bright future with Manatee County Schools.”
The contract includes a number of provisions that members made clear were priorities. For instance, all employees will receive raises, in same cases as much as 12 percent, retroactive to July 2018. And members will, for the first time, be allowed to meet with employees during annual back-to-school trainings and events to discuss issues and give updates. Also, members can take part in labor-management and safety committees without loss of pay.
“This was my first contract negotiation and it was a harrowing experience at times but well worth it,” said Bob Story, an electrician and executive board member with Local 1584. “I encourage all employees to get involved with their union and see the reality of how negotiations actually work.”
In addition to hammering out a contract, Local 1584 members have been involved in other ways to help education. For instance, they helped pass local ballot initiatives to better fund the school system.
“Our commitment to the students and families we serve drives everything we do, and we kept that in the forefront of all of our negotiations and communications,” said Deanna Howell, president of Local 1584 and a bus driver for more than 14 years.