Labor union contract negotiations are always interesting. This year, the negotiations at WCC are likely to be even more interesting. Last week, Michigan became the first state in six decades to tear down “right-to-work” laws. In addition, chronically high inflation has likely made WCC’s traditional 1.5%-2% annual raises laughable.
If you look at the current contract for the Office Professional/Technical (OPT) Association, the pay rates for 2022-23, the workers in this union received an amazingly generous hourly increase of $0.22 this year. To keep up with the 8% inflation, they needed a raise of $1.33-$1.63 per hour, depending on their pay grades. During contract negotiations in 2020, this $0.22 per hour increase didn’t even match the rate of inflation then.
According to the Custodial and Maintenance union contract, WCC’s custodial and maintenance staff received raises ranging from $0.25-$0.41 in 2021-2022 but received no raise at all in 2022-2023. (I didn’t know this, but apparently inflation does not affect custodians and maintenance personnel.) In dollars per year, that’s an increase in annual salary of between $520 and $850.
And it’s not as though WCC cannot afford more. This year, in county property tax collections alone, WCC received 3.3% more in local property tax revenues, and budgeted an increase of 4.4% in revenues overall. Next year, thanks to Proposal A, it will be 5%.
WCC can somehow afford to hire a dozen Vice Presidents and increase the president’s compensation by more than 15% since 2020, but can’t afford to increase college staff salaries to meet inflation? Really? It can’t afford to give the custodial and maintenance staff a raise at all? Is this really the way the community wants to treat the lowest-paid staff at WCC?
Contract negotiations should include fair wage provisions
As I stated earlier, it’s a contract year. The 2% raise that the WCCEA deftly negotiated for its members isn’t looking so good right now. Inflation has risen 6.7 times the rate it was the last time Custodial/Maintenance and OPT unions were in contract negotiations. Unfortunately, inflation is unpredictable. So, to make up for that, contract negotiations this time should include an inflation clause. Any pay increase must be coupled with an inflation offset. So, if the union negotiates a 2% increase in pay for its members, but inflation sits at 5%, the College should be required to increase the workers’ rate of pay by 7% to offset the cost of inflation to the worker.
Here’s another suggestion: executive compensation should be capped at the lowest increase the College offers to the unions on campus. So, when the Custodial and Maintenance Union workers get a raise of $0.00, the WCC executives get the same raise. Alternately, the staff raises should be tied to the President’s compensation increases. If she gets a 6% raise, everyone gets a 6% raise.
After all, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Photo Credit: Fated Snowfox , via Flickr