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TruStage workers reflect on contract a year after going on strike  • Wisconsin Examiner

It’s been just over a year since workers at TruStage — formerly CUNA Mutual Group — started one of the largest strikes by white collar workers in decades in the state of Wisconsin over unfair labor practices. Two employees who were on the strike line last year said although the strike led to some positive changes, the union is still filing grievances against the company. 

The strike lasted from May 19 to June 5, 2023. After over 400 days without a contract, OPEIU Local 39, the union for TruStage employees, authorized a strike to encourage the company to negotiate. They finally reached an agreement on a contract in December 2023. 

Mike Fairway has been at TruStage since 2014, and was just recently named chief steward in October 2023 after Joe Evica was fired. Evica was originally fired in March 2023, but his termination was one of the grievances the union had with TruStage. 

In the end, the National Labor Relations Board ruled against reinstating Evica. Fairway said he was originally fired for “removing company property, being digital information from the company.” He added that the union has the right to that information anyway, but because there was technically no union activity at the time of his termination, the NLRB ruled in favor of TruStage. 

Fairway still disagrees with the NLRB ruling on Evica, but said he “think(s) that we reached an agreement that was at least reasonably fair.” 

There were a few things the union got, according to Fairway, like the right not to be on call 24/7, which he called a “big win,” and remote work flexibility stayed the same. 

Will Roberts, a multimedia specialist from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a steward for OPEIU, is a remote worker at TruStage. He felt that addressing remote work was helpful, and said that the contract covered  a lot of the major issues. 

“So there were a lot of wins in the contract,” Roberts said. “I felt really good about recommending it to other members, and I felt really good about voting for it as well.”

Roberts said that the team of stewards still files grievances with the company, but he assumes that this is just part of normal union activity. A healthy union is there to ensure that the terms of the contract are fulfilled. 

Still, Fairway said the union has a lot of concerns. 

Fairway said the union has filed one unfair labor practice grievance since the contract was ratified. It was based on  nine refusals for information requests over the past several months. Other grievances include on-call workers not being paid properly and non-represented workers doing union work. Since some grievances have been open for months with no response from the company, there is no opportunity to work out issues with the company, he says. 

“We want to get back into a good working relationship like we have had in the past,” Fairway said. “But right now, that’s very difficult.” 

In the contract itself, the union did not get everything it asked for. There are still concerns about the company removing the pension plan for new employees starting in 2028. The union bargained for employees to have a slight raise, but with inflation, it isn’t much more than past years. Farwell said there will need to be further negotiations about health insurance, and employees still didn’t get job security guaranteed in the contract. 

Roberts said things are  better than they were a year ago. But, he says, the union cannot afford to  get complacent. 

TruStage responded to a request for comment from Wisconsin Examiner with the following statement: 

“At TruStage, it’s important to us to attract and retain top talent. We do that by providing competitive pay and a comprehensive benefits package. We’re proud our final contract contained a total economic increase of more than 28% over three years. This includes significant pay raises, increases in our annual bonus incentive program and a ratification bonus. We believe this is a strong and substantial package. As a company we have an 80+ year positive and productive relationship with the union, and we look forward to that relationship continuing.” 

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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2024%2F06%2F04%2Ftrustage-workers-reflect-on-contract-a-year-after-going-on-strike%2F by Abigail Leavins

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