Bargaining During COVID - How Benton County Local 2046 Found Success

Prior to 2021, the members of Oregon AFSCME Local 2046’s bargaining committee had never held a rally, ran a contract campaign - or any campaign. And they also never had a win as big as the one they got this year in their new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“The employees of Benton County were tired of having poor contracts, were tired of not being paid a market wage, and realized if we wanted a win, we had to be in it together,” said Dawn Dale, Local 2064 President.

In building their contract campaign, Local 2064 started out with six simple goals: 

  • Identify, recruit and train member leaders 
  • Increase membership to 200
  • Create functional member action team (MAT) structure with at least 80% coverage of membership and 60% of the entire bargaining unit
  • Run at least 3 membership-wide actions through the MAT structure
  • Focus on member-driven consistent communications 
  • Win a contract that exceeds member expectations

A testament to creating a plan and flawless execution by member-leaders, Oregon AFSCME Local 2064 proudly met every goal – and more.

Local 2064 members did the hard work of organizing a Member Action Team in every Department and almost every County building. This team was in constant contact with members throughout bargaining, ratification and led to a huge contract celebration for members and their families during AFSCME Strong Week.

Among many wins, the agreement includes: Two additional steps in the salary schedule, applied retroactively, market adjustments, their highest COLAs ever, bilingual pay, increases for life insurance, and a retirement health savings plan identical to management’s, and improvements to worker safety.

Local 2064 represents a wide range of Benton County employees, including in the Health Department, healthcare workers for the Community Health Centers for both Benton and Linn Counties and the Benton County Natural Areas and Parks – many of whom are frontline workers who have worked in person throughout the pandemic.

On the way towards the successful tentative agreement, Local 2064 members held a successful rally on Sept. 1, in front of the Benton County Courthouse, and overcame an impasse & mediation to reach a fair contract.

“AFSCME Local 2064 went into bargaining with the contract slogan; membership is all about what we can accomplish together. Our bargaining team was strong and our membership was engaged.  We wanted a fair contract that was comparable to our neighboring counties. In the end, we won the best contract that even our long-time members had ever seen.” AFSCME Local 2064 President, Dawn Dale. 

More details from the new contract: 

  • A Retirement Health Savings Plan based on months of completed service, with annual amounts ranging from $504 - $2,520. The Retirement Health Savings Plan is designed to help county employees prepare a critical expense – retiree health expenses. 
  • Increased life insurance coverage from $10,000 to $50,000. Many Benton County workers face hazards on the job and deserve to know that their loved ones will be taken care of.
  • Fair implementation of two additional steps to the AFSCME pay scale, provides the following annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): retro to July 2021: 3.5% (backpay to be issued after ratification), July 1, 2022: 3% and July 1, 2023: 3.25%. The COLA will help alleviate the rising costs of living.

“The last two contracts, we did not get a fair deal, and so the people pulled together and united to let management know that it needs to be right,” Dale told the Corvallis Advocate.