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Nov 21, 2023

By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

By the time their former Union representation began arguing with the Employer about procedures that did not apply to them, Chesterfield Township Management Employees knew a change was necessary. They found the perfect fit with Government Employees Labor Council (GELC). 

“Our HR and elected Supervisor are lifetime government employees. They’re very qualified for negotiations and pro-Employee,” said Gary DeMaster, Chesterfield Township Management Local Union President. “It should have been the easiest negotiations ever and it went so south because of AFSCME. They were acting as if we were 100 rank and file bus drivers. They were talking about who gets hired first. This is a management union. There’s only one job each for us.”

Represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) for over 20 years, Chesterfield Township Management voted unanimously to join the GELC in May 2023. The 16-member group consists of directors, assistant directors and coordinators. 

“Union members Josh Sonnenberg and Michael Mullen got a hold of our police department, which is in the POLC. We knew that their Union was good and there was also a general government employees union as well,” DeMaster said. “We did not solicit any others because of the recommendation of (Chesterfield Township Police Captain) Brian McNair. Historically, the police always do really well in municipalities, so that was by far an easy choice for us.”

As Vice President of the POLC/GELC Executive Committee, McNair provided the group with details about GELC. DeMaster and the local stewards moved quickly to obtain new representation since their contract had expired Dec. 31, 2022. DeMaster said AFSCME rejected the Employer’s request to open contract talks in April 2022, delaying negotiations until November. 

“Then they came up with all these demands that were impossible, which dragged us to April (2023),” DeMaster said. “I said, ‘It’s time to get rid of this union. They’re not representing us.’ Josh and Mike were also instrumental in the Union change.”

DeMaster spoke with GELC Labor Representatives Jim Stachowski (who has since become the POLC/GELC Director) and Joe Stone, about the urgency to settle their contract. “I said, ‘I want this to go fast because we’re behind. The State of Michigan took out retro pay, so we can’t get natural bumps on our seniority date,’” he said. 

Those missed pay increases had already cost Employees an average of $3,000 to $4,000 each. DeMaster, who was voted in as the new Local Union President after the switch to GELC, said Local Union Reps wanted assurance they would have more control in negotiations.

“AFSCME would say ‘We’re going to do all the talking,’” DeMaster said. “Jim and Joe were awesome — they were incredible! I said, ‘We want to do the talking and ask for your help.’ They listened and they heard.”

In just two weeks, the GELC helped them reach a tentative agreement. “I would say AFSCME met five or six times in three months and got nowhere,” DeMaster said. “Jim was smart, intelligent, and responsible and made everyone happy. These guys were able to settle this in two meetings and we did well too! We’re happy we made the change. We’re going to stay with them.” 

Chesterfield Township Management’s new GELC-negotiated 3-year contract is effective Jan. 1, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2025 with a 10 percent pay increase over the life of the agreement. They also added Juneteenth as a paid Holiday. 

“We’re extremely pleased! It was a unanimous tentative agreement, unanimous ratification (by the members),” DeMaster said. “Because we’re so far behind, we’re going to negotiate in a year and a half again and it’s a 3-year contract.”

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