|Here are some of the Local 153 members employed at MCU attending a membership meeting to be updated on negotiations.
On October 2, 2020, Municipal Credit Union members voted overwhelmingly to accept a three-year contract. Local 153 represents almost 400 union members at MCU, including tellers, accounting clerks, loan specialists, data control clerks, home banking representatives, underwriters, and loan officers.
The MCU negotiating committee consisted of Millie Sanchez, Ray Jordan, and Renee Spradley, and they and Local 153 officers Richard Lanugan, Seth Goldstein and John Edmonds had been battling for almost two years to win an acceptable contract from the company.
Although the parties reached a wage agreement in April 2019, everything changed after the New York State Department of Financial Services took possession of MCU and appointed the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) as conservator over the company. Making matters worse, the country’s most infamous union-busting law firm, Jackson-Lewis, was brought in to handle contract negotiations. Immediately — but not surprisingly — Jackson-Lewis took off the table the 3% per year wage increase for three years that had been accepted by the union in April and instead insisted on a five-year wage freeze. Also, MCU management and Jackson-Lewis pushed to immediately terminate MCU members’ pension, cut longevity increases, take away sick days, increase health-care premiums, and raise deductibles. In short, management and Jackson-Lewis sought to weaken workers’ rights and destroy MCU employees’ union representation. But the MCU workers refused to surrender and instead fought back.
As an example, MCU workers in February and March, 2020, during the initial outbreak of COVID-19, engaged in mass information picketing at different MCU branch locations. Workers protested the lack of PPE and MCU management’s outrageous attempt to slash sick days during the pandemic.
Local 153 members at MCU received a boost from their brothers and sisters in New York City municipal unions. On February 3, 2020 the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC), the umbrella group of the city’s public unions, issued a resolution supporting the MCU bargaining unit members, “The assembled union presidents were very distressed that individuals who were hired by the MCU to serve our members were about to have their new manager seek to decrease their salary when there was no financial problem in the first place,” MLC’s resolution said in part. The resolution was a powerful statement because so many New York City union employees have accounts with MCU.
There were other steps Local 153 took. The union filed unfair labor practice charges against MCU alleging regressive bargaining, retaliation, direct dealing, and failure to provide information. Most significantly, Local 153 filed a charge against MCU for violating the contract and federal labor law by refusing to pay longevity bonuses to over 100 MCU bargaining unit members.
The collective action engaged in by bargaining unit members placed significant pressure on MCU. As a result, the company finally abandoned its union-busting campaign and began to engage in serious bargaining. Negotiations were facilitated by Federal Commissioner William Domini, of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, an independent public agency that provides mediation services for dispute resolution.
With the assistance of Commissioner William Domini, Local 153 and MCU management negotiated a fair and equitable contract.
A key point of contention was employee retirement. MCU management insisted that the pension plan had to be terminated immediately, but had failed to provide a comparable alternative retirement plan. The compromise that management and the union decided on was that the pension will continue for current employees through June 2023. On July, 1, 2023 all employees will be enrolled in the OPEIU Savings Plan, the union’s 401 (k) plan that is administered by Prudential. The OPEIU 401 (k) plan provides both low administrative fees and fiduciary protection. Under the new contract all MCU bargaining unit employees will receive an annual vested allocation of eight percent (8%) of their compensation. This change will begin after July 1, 2023
“We beat back cruel attempts by MCU management and Jackson Lewis to destroy our retirement,” said Renee Spradley, Assistant Chief Shop Steward. “We want to say a sincere thank you to Local 153 and Business Manager Richard Lanigan for their strong support,”
The new contract will give workers a 2 percent raise in the first year, a 2.5 percent raise the second year, and a 3 percent raise in the third year.
“At last our members will be receiving wage increases to offset dramatic jumps in food prices and the cost of other necessities like rent that were caused by COVID-19,” said Ray Jordan, a member of the bargaining committee.
The union successfully forced the employer to abandon its proposal that current employees have a reduction in sick days and PTO for vacations and personal days. Also, employee health insurance will remain affordable under the new contract.
Finally, the union succeeded in forcing MCU to pay longevity benefits for both current employees and individuals who were eligible for the bonuses but were no longer working for the employer. Ray Jordan praised the union’s tenacity, “Local 153, by fighting for what is right, helped hundreds of MCU employees and their families,” he said. “We are very grateful for the assistance the union provided.”