Union approves contract with Genesis

After hosting multiple rallies to show solidarity and multiple readings of the proposed agreement, the United Steelworkers Local 13214 union voted on Sunday to approve their new contract with Genesis Alkali. 

The union and company have been working on renegotiating the contract, with union members calling for changes in order to have more input on safety concerns and better work-life balance for employees. Since the contract was presented to the union and a majority of the members voted to approve it, the union did not go on strike. Genesis employees returned to work as normal on Monday, July 1, which was the first day under the new contract. 

Although not all the changes the union members wanted to see were included in the contract, Union President Marshal Cummings said he felt good about the agreements they were able to reach. 

"If I thought that there was more on the table or we weren't getting a fair contract, I wouldn't have endorsed it," Cummings said. 

He explained that he and the other members of the negotiating committee unanimously endorsed the final contract that was approved. He also pointed out that negotiating always includes bargaining so that both sides can be successful, even while they also have to compromise. 

"Even though it wasn't everything we wanted, we thought it was fair," Cummings said of the final contract. "That's what we were asking for the whole time is just a fair contract. We don't want to rob the company, we just want our piece of the pie and a say in the working conditions."

One of the main concerns union members wanted to address through the new contract was being able to have a seat at the table when it comes to safety concerns so that their voices are heard and meaningful changes can be made. 

"The company told us that they're excited that we want to get back in the game with safety and have more of an input," Cummings said. 

The new contract has added some language changes regarding safety, according to Cummings. There will also be a Safety Leadership Team that will have monthly meetings with the company to address concerns. Cummings said this will ensure that problems aren't overlooked or neglected.

"Accountability on both sides is what we're looking for, so that we can provide our members with the safest working conditions and a fair wage and benefits to take care of their family," Cummings said. "That was the goal, and I feel like we reached that."

The new contract also includes wage increases, Cummings said, as well as some new benefits that will help employees maintain a healthier work-life balance. While paid time off for sick and personal days, which the union was hoping for, did not end up being part of the contract, Cummings hopes they will be able to figure something out in those areas in the future. Until then, some of the new benefits in the contract include implementing new schedules and adding parental leave and increased vacation time for new hires.

Cummings said the parental time in particular was "a big win" that the union members were excited about. The extra time will allow parents who welcome a new family member to spend time caring for and bonding with their child. And Cummings pointed out that this will go hand in hand with being able to secure more vacation time for those who hire on at Genesis. 

"Oftentimes new hires are the ones that are just starting their family, so giving them more vacation and having a little bit more work-life balance was really exciting for us," Cummings said. 

He also noted that the members of the negotiating committee won't benefit from these changes, but they are happy to see how others will benefit in the future. 

"This would have helped me a lot, and although I missed the boat on it, I'm still proud to have worked with a union that negotiated this benefit to them," Cummings said. 

Another point of pride for Cummings during all of the negotiations was seeing how engaged the union members were in the process. He pointed out that the union nearly hit 90% for voter turnout, which was the largest turnout he's heard of. This not only helped ensure that people's voices were heard, but it showed how much they care. 

"I hope that the company knows they have a workforce that is all in and it's not just about money to them," Cummings said. "They want to be the best in everything. They want a say in safety. They want to have work-life balance. And they still continue to deliver record years and the most profitability and profit margin in the patch. And ultimately they are leaders in the community. So hopefully the company sees that they can trust us."

Cummings also expressed his optimism in the future and his belief that the relationship between the union and the company will be in a good spot going forward. 

"I think that we can break the records that we've set and continue to innovate and change how trona is mined and progress through this journey together," he said. "I think that as long as we realize that we're a team, we'll have no problems."


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