AFSCME Local 619 and City of Cerritos reach historic agreement

AFSCME Local 619 has secured an unprecedented agreement with the City of Cerritos to provide lifetime dental and vision benefits to members. The side-letter agreement also includes an additional 2% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

This agreement is a result of years of political activism from Local Union leaders. Local 619 leaders worked for years to get union-friendly leaders elected to city council, and after the most recent election cycle, a third union-endorsed candidate was elected to city council. “We weren’t in bargaining, so we weren’t in a position to demand any of these things,” says AFSCME Local 619 President Rogan Girard. “It’s only through the political efforts that we’ve gone through to have a friendly council that brought us to this point.”

Last year, the Local secured a 3-year contract with major wins including a 2% COLA, but that contract did not include benefits for retirees. After ratifying that contract, Union leaders continued to lobby for wage increases and added benefits to combat high inflation. Some city councilmembers showed high interest in adding dental and vision benefits, so the local proposed lifetime dental and vision benefits and an additional 2% COLA for members. After a brief meeting, both parties reached a tentative agreement. The city council then voted unanimously to approve the agreement.

The effects of this agreement on Local 619 members are considerable because they will not have to worry about the high costs of vision and dental insurance after retirement. The cost of vision and dental plans, not offered through an employer, can be thousands of dollars out of pocket each year. “I think the biggest part is you effectively can’t get the most cost-effective vision or dental plans as a retiree. You just have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket, and now with this new agreement you won’t be paying out of pocket. You’ll just have it,” says Girard.

Hopefully, this historic agreement will open the door for other local unions to negotiate lifetime benefits. Other unions can use AFSCME Local 619 as a reference point to hopefully secure these types of benefits for their own local.