How We Won the Fair Contract Campaign vs. JVS SoCal

After a very long fight, Local 800 has finally settled two contracts with JVS SoCal, formerly known as Jewish Vocational Service.

When JVS SoCal management came to the bargaining table in 2019 to negotiate contracts for the admin/original unit and the GAIN unit, they brought an attorney who has a history of being anti-union as their chief negotiator, and from the beginning, management and their attorney proposed takeaways. They proposed less than a one percent average annual wage increase over three years, attempted to remove some members from the bargaining unit, and they insisted on language to weaken members’ rights under the grievance procedure.

Additionally, they wanted a new provision that would limit employee’s rights to file legal cases for violations of discrimination, sexual harassment, and disability rights laws, forcing employees to go to binding arbitration. Amid COVID uncertainty, they wanted to deny severance pay for laid-off or permanently disabled employees, and they wanted employees to waive their right to vacation payout when they leave the agency.

It seemed that JVS SoCal management and their attorney thought that Local 800 would feel overwhelmed, collapse under the pressure, and accept their proposals. That did not happen. “We aren’t going to allow management to tear up our contract and take away our union rights – for all of us working here now and for the union members that will work for JVS SoCal in the future,” said Local 800 President Charlie Orlowski.

Instead, Local 800 developed a plan to keep their members informed and united and called on their allies in the wider community for support. More than 80 percent of JVS GAIN members and more than 90 percent of the JVS admin/original unit showed their support by signing fair contract petitions. Furthermore, many community organizations, Rabbis, and elected leaders showed their support for Local 800 by writing articles, signing petitions, and sending letters to JVS SoCal management.

Finally, after months of fighting for fair contracts, the two units of Local 800 have reached an agreement with JVS SoCal. “I believe in the GAIN project and I am passionate about the clients and the services we provide to our community. It was my intention to bring that same passion to my position as union shop steward and as part of the negotiating team,” said Lisa Thomas, JVS GAIN bargaining team member. “I wanted to make it clear to all that this was not a ‘them versus us’ issue but an opportunity to find common ground that would result in a contract that would be as fair as possible to everyone involved. For the most part I believe we did just that.”

The JVS admin/original unit members will receive a 3.25 percent increase in pay, retroactive to 2019, another 1.5 percent increase on July 1, 2021, and 1.75 percent on July 1, 2022. They will also receive a $500 bonus, plus improved severance pay in case of layoffs. JVS GAIN employees will receive a 3-5 percent increase over the 1.5-year agreement. They also won improved sick leave, vacation benefits, and recall rights for laid-off employees. The Union also accepted sensible revisions to our CBA requested by JVS. The union membership voted unanimously in both units to approve the final agreement.   

Congratulations and gratitude to JVS Bargaining Team members Charlie Orlowski, Lydia Buchman, Lisa Thomas, Georgino Ludwig, and Larren McGee, and to Gary Guthman, L800 Professional Rep., for his bargaining leadership and his tireless support of our members.  Thanks also to former Bargaining Team members Andy Sacher, Shonta Gregory, and Dominic Agbabiaka. We are also grateful for the unwavering support we received from AFSCME District Council 36 President Andy Jung, Staff Director Abdul Johnson, Communications Officer Daisha Benjamin, and Political Advocate Isabelle Franz. Lastly, a big thank you to Ian Schiffer for his dedicated and brilliant work for the contract campaign.

This is such a huge win for Local 800, but the work of the union goes on year-round. The contract with Silverlake Independent JCC will be up for re-negotiation in August, JVS GAIN workers are back at the table next Fall and 2022 will see negotiations for contracts with the “Federation group” (Jewish Federation, BJE, JBBBS, and JCF), Jewish Family Service, Westside JCC, and Museum of Tolerance.