By Don McIntosh
In March, we reported on a hullabaloo in the central Washington town of Ellensburg, population 21,000. The city-owned electric utility there employs six members of IBEW Local 77. At $47.65 an hour, they’re underpaid compared to counterparts at neighboring utilities, and when the City of Ellensburg proposed just a single 1% pay increase for their next three year contract, they started holding public protests and got support from hundreds of locals as well as IBEW members throughout the region.
The effort seemed to have at least some effect: In the end the City agreed to 3% per year in a three-year contract that runs through Dec. 31, 2023.
That’s likely to beat inflation, but it won’t catch members up to area standards. But as public employees under Washington law, the workers have limited options: They don’t have a legally recognized right to strike, and if labor and management can’t agree, management can just wait a year and impose its terms.
Members voted to ratify the deal April 12.