Local 375 wins 500 grievances at DEP
Total estimated at $10 million over last
Spearheads of estimated $10 million grievance victories
at Dept. of Environmental Protection were Steve Awad, President
of Local 375s Chapter 8, seated third from left, and Local
375 Rep Karl Toth, seated second from right, with members.
More than 500 Local 375 members have won millions of dollars
in back pay and upgrades over the past four years as the union has worked
with the Dept. of Environmental Protection to clean up a huge backlog
The awards total an estimated $10 million, according to Local 375.
We convinced DEP that it was in the interest of both sides to work
together rather than letting grievances pile up and go to arbitration,
said Claude Fort, president of Civil Service Technical Guild Local 375.
In most cases, DEP was losing the arbitrations, and its hard-nosed
policy was hurting the morale of our members, who clearly werent
being paid appropriately.
The bulk of the grievances concerned members in the locals Chapter
8 (Water Resources), which covers 900 workers. Three other chapters at
DEP represent environmental engineering (Chapter 13), air and noise control
(Chapter 32) and the upstate watershed (Chapter 40).
$90,000 back pay
In addition to promotions, many members won salary increases ranging from
$10,000 to $30,000 and back pay awards of around $20,000 for two to three
years of out-of-title work. Members were often promoted more than one
level or into a higher title series. Some got back pay awards as high
as $50,000 and even, in one instance, $90,000.
Local 375 hasnt actually totaled up all the victories. But Chapter
8 President Steve Awad, who handles the grievances with Local 375 Rep
Karl Toth, figures that if 500 workers won an average of $20,000 each,
the total would be $10 million.
Awad said resolving the accumulated grievances and improving bitter labor
relations began shortly after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg started his first
term. A union delegation led by DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts,
Fort and Awad met with new DEP Commissioner Christopher Ward. Ward, no
longer at the agency, agreed to have DEPs labor relations director
work with the union to resolve the cases.
Besides helping improve members living standards, our work
at DEP has improved the image of the union itself, said Jon Forster,
the locals 1st vice president. This is important because ultimately
the strength of the union depends on its support among members.
Awad said that when he became chapter president several years ago, members
were indifferent about the union and meeting attendance was sparse.
Ionnis Iliopoulos, who won promotions from Assistant Mechanical Engineer
to Associate Project Manager 2 and Mechanical Engineer 2, acknowledged
that he used to rip up union mailings before Chapter 8 started to more
aggressively represent him and his co-workers.
These days, Iliopoulos earns $20,000 more thanks to his own grievances.
He shows up at the monthly chapter meetings which are now attended
by 300 members and he has twice chaired the chapters election
committee. It would have been impossible to get what we deserved
without the union, he said.
Theres a lot more faith and trust in the union, said
Local 375 Pension Chair Jean Placide, who was promoted from Assistant
Engineer to Associate Project Manager 1 through a grievance. And
now, DEP is recognizing what we are doing. They are settling most grievances
Gregory N. Heires