Muskogee City Employees Win Back Collective Bargaining Rights
AFSCME members in Muskogee, Okla., and their uniformed sisters and brothers in the fire and police departments are cheering the return of collective bargaining rights to the city’s non-uniform employees.
The city council’s ordinance restoring the rights takes effect July 15. On that day, workers who make up AFSCME Local 2465 will file a petition to qualify for a union recognition election – recognition that was stripped away after an anti-worker state law repealed their rights last spring.
Local 2465 members are the men and women who keep Muskogee’s streets, parks and water safe and clean every day. Winning back their bargaining rights came after members got involved in the spring city council elections, securing the victory of three pro-worker candidates.
The fight to win back rights is also rooted in an earlier victory. When the city tried to privatize the waste water treatment plant last year, members mobilized to stop the attempt and save quality services. Stopping the privatization attempt saved city taxpayers $200,000.
“When we stopped the privatization of the plant, we saw the power of coming together as a union. We weren’t going to let anyone take away our rights and freedoms,” says Dustin Williams, an aquatics technician in the parks and recreation department and Local 2465 member.
In addition to electing city councilors who cared about working families, members also got to work proving that employees wanted their union and a restoration of rights.
“Our co-workers saw us standing up and they got involved too. We successfully collected signatures from more than two-thirds of the employees urging the city council to pass this ordinance,” says Williams.
The local still needs to work on several issues related to the ordinance, including bargaining a new contract that protects workers’ wages, benefits and safe working conditions. The victory in Muskogee proves that – even in hostile or “right-to-work-for-less” states – we won’t back down from fighting and organizing against those who hurt America’s middle class families.
“We’re not just fighting for us,” adds Williams. “We’re fighting for our children and your children. Everyone should have the same rights and a voice.”