Judicial Branch Members Approve New Deal

Congratulations are due to SEA members in the Judicial Branch, who have ratified a new contract. Because the court employees have a me-too clause on health insurance and wages, the two-year deal looks similar to the contract Executive Branch members signed last year.

SEA member Kearston Crutchfield, the chair of the employees’ bargaining team, said she thought the bargaining process went well.

“I think we made some strides in building a better sort of relationship with the other side, so that’s always good,” she said. “It’ll hopefully make the next contract negotiation easier.”

The contract includes the first wage increases since 2009, a compounded increase of 6.12 percent across two years, plus a $300 signing bonus in lieu of retroactive pay. The contract also includes annual deductibles in the health plan for the first time; however, workers will automatically get two $300 payments to help offset increased health care costs, and they can earn more (to be placed in a health reimbursement account) for completing certain health promotion activities. Among other changes, the contract includes new language on reassignment or relocation

The contract was ratified by a vote of 56 to 10. Chapter President Jen Hunt said the overwhelming vote reflects the work the bargaining team did to educate members on the contract.

“We made a good effort and did a lot of site visits to try to get people to support it,” she said.

Crutchfield said the team focused on presenting the deal to members face to face.

“We tried to get out and talk to members directly instead of bombarding them with emails,” she said. “We had pretty good turnouts and the members’ questions were excellent. Different regions had different concerns, so it was nice to go out and address the parts of the contract that affect different areas.”

“I think we got such a large vote to ratify, because when you meet with people and they see the people who worked on the contract, that builds trust,” she said.

Because the deal only runs through next year, the bargaining team will have to start preparing for negotiations again in the fall. But Hunt said that won’t stop them from working to resolve problems in the interim.

“There are a lot of issues that didn’t get finished in negotiations, but we’ll try to handle them at LMC,” Hunt said.

A date has not yet been set for an official contract signing.

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