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On the picket line

February 24, 2006 | Page 15

Pratt Institute
By Cindy Klumb, shop steward, OPEIU Local 153

NEW YORK--Workers at Pratt Institute have won their best contract in a decade, thanks to a solidarity campaign and a threat to strike.

Members of OPEIU Local 153 ratified a four-year contract last February 17 that includes across the board raises of 4 percent retroactive to July 1, 2005, another 4 percent on July 1, 2006, 3.5 percent on July 1, 2007 and 3.5 percent on July 1, 2008. For members that have been working at Pratt for five years as of June 30, 2006, another $1,300 will be added to their annual salaries effective as January 1, 2006.

This one-time wage adjustment was to make up for losses in real income that resulted from sacrifices made to save the school from bankruptcy in the 1990s. Minimum starting salaries were frozen from July 1, 1992, to July 1, 2001, and those hired before 1992 went two years without increases to their annual base salaries.

A substantial increase in minimum starting salaries will become effective on July 2, 2006, and workers below the minimum will get a bump up. The contract also boosts pension contributions from 5 percent to 7 percent in the second year of the contract.

Pratt Institute had hired Proskauer Rose, the largest anti-union law firm in the U.S. to represent it in the negotiations. In spite of this, the union shop--71 active members--stood strong, voting in overwhelmingly in January to authorize a strike.

With the threat of a strike pending, the faculty union, the academic senate and a group of students began a solidarity campaign. Their activism pressured the Pratt administration to recognize the important contribution to the school that the members of OPEIU Local 153 make in the day-to-day operation of Pratt.

The patience, persistence and hard work of the clerical, secretarial and technical union at Pratt contributed to this small but important victory.

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