Richland line crew, city continue negotiations

RICHLAND, Wash. – Line crew workers with the City of Richland and IBEW 77 Local have been in the negotiation process for nearly 10 months.

It’s been a back and forth process that’s taking a toll on workers.

“The morale is at an all time low, they’re told by the city management that they value their workers, that’s what they say but they just don’t feel that,” Union Business Representative Will Power said.

Richland officials and the line crew have been unable to agree on a total compensation package with comparable wages.

According to Power, they’re the second lowest paid in the state of Washington, for a city the size of Richland.

One of the bigger challenges during the negotiations, Power added, has been communicating with everyone involved.

“We meet we discuss items, we send that message through our attorney, talks to the mediator, the mediator talks to the negotiator, talks to the management team, talks to the city council,” he explained.

During an early July city council meeting, Mayor Ryan Lukson assured workers of their value but, the city must follow certain guidelines when it comes to creating a compensation package.

RELATED: Line crew says they’re being underpaid by City of Richland

Power said they just want comparable wages, or the department could start loosing workers to other, local utility companies.

“Not one of us is up here to try and punish one particular group or because we don’t like individual groups. We’re doing what we think is best for the city and our citizens as a whole in looking at all the different factors,” Mayor Lukson said.

Power said the comparable wages the city used were from cities nowhere near the size of Richland.

The offer did include wage increases starting at 2.5 % in 2021, 3% in 2022 and an additional 3% in 2023.

“We thought that would come with a higher offer, it wasn’t much higher than the previous offer, it was nowhere near our offer to them, we discussed strategy and what we were going to do. It was rejected 96 percent no,” Power said the offer came in on July 8th.

A recent release from the city said they still haven’t received a formal reply from the union, Power claimed that’s not the case.

“An hour later I informed city management, just simple texting it failed at 96 percent just to let you know,” Power thinks Mayor Lukson and city council may have already gone into executive session by the time he responded.

In a recent release the city said:

“Again, the City is committed to a total compensation philosophy and believes that this conditional/concept proposal positions the Union well with the appropriate comparable agencies.  Contrary to what has been shared via the Union’s media campaign, these comparable organizations include more than 10 agencies from across the state including other local utilities.

We appreciate all of our staff. We are committed to bargaining fairly and in good faith. We understand where the market lies within each industry. We continually re-evaluate and find the balance of investing in our City infrastructure and assets to, at the very least, maintain what we have while also fairly compensating staff.”

For now, IBEW 77 plans to send in a counter offer, as workers continue to serve citizens.

“That’s been our goal all along try to work with the city to raise these guys up with minimal impact,” Power said.

This Saturday, the IBEW 77 is holding an informational picket near John Dam Plaza which starts at 9 AM.