Celebrating being union this Valentine's Day

There's a lot to love about being a union member and having a union contract––on-the-job protections and benefits that offer security for working families. For over 40 years, OCSEA members have fought to to build a strong statewide contract. And local members are fighting every day to secure collective bargaining agreements that protect workers in our cities, towns, and counties.

Share the Love! Check out these union benefits to love and share with co-workers, family and friends. 

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Thanks to the union-negotiated Annual Vacation Leave Conversion, OCSEA members under the State of Ohio contract are offered the opportunity to cash out a maximum of 40 hours of unused accrued vacation leave every single year. And this couldn't come at a better time! This conversion takes place every December, which is a huge help to members and their families during the holidays and as they settle end-of-year debt and expenses. Basically, it puts your hard-earned benefits right where you need them! You can learn all about this union-negotiated benefit in Article 28.07 of the OCSEA State Contract.
Everybody gets sick some time, and having a union allows members and their families the time off to help them withstand whatever illnesses come our way. This is especially important in the winter months and for families with children and aging parents. Union workers (86% to be exact) are more likely to have paid sick days (as compared to 72% of non-union workers). Union workers also are more likely to be able to stay home and seek medical care, which helps strengthen our communities. Additionally, state employees can convert to cash (up to 80%) any part of their sick leave accrued in a year and not used. Learn more about OCSEA's State Sick Leave in Article 29 of the OCSEA Contract or in your local union contract.
Contract benefits help families with child care expenses. Unions mean family, and a union contract means making sure parents can take much needed time off with their newborns and adopted children. The OCSEA contract ensures all employees who work thirty or more hours per week are eligible for paid Adoption/Childbirth leave upon the birth or adoption of a child for care, bonding and/or acclimation of the child. Parents who adopt can also take a financial stipend of $5,000 to help with expenses if leave is not necessary. Additionally, the contract allows for leave in the event of a stillbirth, one of very few contract articles of its kind in the nation. Bereavement is also in the contract in the event of a miscarriage. Thankfully the union contract also sets parameters that ensures the employer and the union meet to discuss communication of important pre-tax dependent care reimbursement programs so employees have the tools they need to plan for costly childcare expenses. Learn more in the Article 30 of OCSEA Contract or in your local union contract.
OCSEA has a long history of fighting for the well-being of the rank-and-file membership. Health and safety labor/management committees across state agencies and local governments have been a mainstay for this union and continue to have a strong say in making workplaces safe. Through the years, OCSEA activists have fought for and won numerous health and safety contract provisions including: ongoing safety training; personal protective clothing and equipment; clean drinking water; safe building conditions; a hazard-free work environment; and violence prevention guidelines. That’s because strong contract language requires management to take the union’s demands seriously and be responsible for member’s health and safety. Learn more in the OCSEA State Contract under Article 11 – Health and Safety.
A Letter of Agreement regarding telework was negotiated during the last round of State contract bargaining that put OCSEA members at the table in any discussion of telework in state agencies. This has been especially important during the COVID pandemic to keep union members safe. Because of this, numerous agreements have been reached at the local level to allow OCSEA members to telework or work in a hybrid environment. Some employees continue to telework or partially telework to this day. In the OCSEA State Contract, you can read more about this under Article 8 – Labor/Management Committees.
At OCSEA, we want our members to succeed, and that means making education a top priority. Thanks to the union-negotiated Union Education Trust (UET), eligible State OCSEA members can receive up to $6,250 annually in educational assistance. Each fiscal year (July 1-June 30), members can use those funds to advance their education and further their careers with this "no-cost-to-you" union benefit. UET financial assistance can be used toward college-credit courses, vocational training, and specialty education; computer training courses; short-term training opportunities (including conferences, workshops, and seminars); and labor/management training. Learn more about the union’s educational benefit at UEdTrust.org.
The union-negotiated Union Benefits Trust (UBT) offers PREMIUM FREE dental and vision insurance benefits to thousands of Ohio union members and their dependents. They provide legal services and life insurance. These no-cots, high-quality benefits are available to state employees in OCSEA, District 1199/SEIU, FOP, CWA and more. The Union Benefits Truss lobbies on behalf of union members and fights to ensure that health costs aren't shifted onto families despite ever-rising health care costs. Read more about the UBT is Article 21 of the OCSEA State Contract.
OCSEA members under the State contract receive 11 union-negotiated holiday days off each year. This allows them to spend time with their families and take a load off. Studies have shown that taking time away from the job can have physical and mental health benefits. People who take time off have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve goals. That’s good for all of us. And don’t forget, the contract ensures that employees required to work on a holiday will be compensated at 1 1/2 times their pay (or equivalent comp time). This additional compensation is so important, especially when members can’t be with their families. Read more about these benefits in Article 26 – Holidays of the OCSEA State Contract.
OCSEA has 12 local contracts throughout Ohio. These individual collective bargaining agreements – totally separate from the State Contract – are all negotiated by the members in those localities, including counties, towns and townships. That’s right! They work side-by-side with their brothers and sister to bargain with local officials for strong contracts that promote public work, sustain communities and retain qualified, skilled workers that our communities deserve. Take Mount Vernon City, for example, whose union leaders used worker leverage to hold their own at the bargaining table and fight for a well-deserved wage increase this year.
Let's talk about the contract benefit of labor/management committees and all our union volunteers. The nuts and bolt work of the union is done at the local level by volunteer leaders. And often it’s labor/management committees that are the workhorses for these local union leaders to get things done for their members. Labor/management committees deal with everything from worksite health and safety, short staffing training, contracting out, workplace conflicts, contract violations and more. Larger, statewide labor/management committees deal with issues for whole agencies or whole classifications. For example, a Joint Information Technology Committee (also called the 8.05 Committee) has been leading the charge in addressing issues among IT classifications involving recruitment and retention, training and career development as well as upgrades for IT classifications.
OCSEA has fought tooth and nail for affordable health care plans that don’t break the bank and that keep our members and their families healthy. Where others have required high deductible health care plans, this union has been able to fend that off and negotiate affordable, traditional plans at both the state and local government levels. The union has also had success in keeping deductibles well under comparable contracts and preventing across-the-board increases in the premium split, which stands at 85/15. Additionally, the Joint Health Care Committee (JHCC), made up of labor and management representatives, meets all year long to watch over the State health care program for our members and help in its administration. OCSEA’s union-negotiated health care plans save union members’ thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket health care costs. To learn more about your union negotiated health-care benefits, go to Article 20 under the State Contract or review your local contract.
In 2021, the State of Ohio and OCSEA Bargaining Teams agreed to a wage package that is the largest for state employees since the 2006-2008 contract, even though a possible recession and economic uncertainty during the pandemic plagued the bargaining discussions. Despite management initially wanting state employees to take a 4 percent pay cut, the final agreement gave a 9 percent wage increase to state employees over the three years of the State contract. That meant state employees received a 3 percent increase in 2021, a 3 percent increase in 2022 and will receive another 3 percent increase in 2023, beginning with the July 1 paycheck. The annual wage percentage was far above the average per year of other public contracts in Ohio, which was 2.1 percent. That’s union solidarity in action!

Learn more about OCSEA's State and local union contracts in the OCSEA.org Toolbox.

This Valentine's Day, have your loved ones say "I love my union worker"

Union workers across this state and across this country are the heart of thriving families. OCSEA union members, like you, work hard every day to provide for your families. Now it's time to show YOU a little love.

Share this "I Love My Union Worker" poster (linked right) with your family members and loved ones. Or maybe there's another union member in your family you want to show some love. Write the union job title (Correction Officer, Highway Technician, Administrative Professional, Plumber e.g.) in the blank provided. There is also a generic "I love my union worker" poster if you don't feel like filling in the blank.

Ask your loved ones to take a photo with you before Valentine's Day. Then post it on social media using the hashtag #ILoveMyUnionWorker. Don't have social media? You can also send a copy of your photos to OCSEA for sharing on our social networks, website and this newsletter. Send those to communications@ocsea.org. This is the perfect way to say "I love you" to our hard-working public union members this Valentine's Day.

DOWNLOAD "I love my Union Worker" poster

I Love My Union Worker