The Evanston City Council voted to ratify a new contract Monday for more than 300 city employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), completing the city’s contract renewal process for all four of its employee unions through 2026.

The tentative contract passed 7-0, with Council Members Bobby Burns (5th Ward) and Tom Suffredin (6th Ward) absent. It contains a number of substantial changes, such as immediately raising union employees’ gross wages by 11%, followed by annual 3% increases for a total increase of 20%.

AFSCME negotiated the contract on behalf of Evanston City Employees Union Local 1891, which currently represents 341 city employees, according to city spokesperson Jessie Mayo. The city’s two police unions and one fire fighters union ratified new contracts in January and March 2023, respectively.

‘Important’ contract

The contract discussion was briefly paused so staff could correct a typo regarding guaranteed overtime pay. During the break, Council Member Devon Reid (8th Ward) said he was “really proud” of the agreement, especially since city staff “have long needed a raise.”

“With the inflationary pressures caused primarily by the pandemic, and things that happened as a result of the pandemic, I think this is extremely important,” Reid said. “This builds on top of what we’ve done with the fire department this year [and] what we’ve done with the police department.”

AFSCME employees had agreed to cost-cutting measures under their previous contract, such as furlough days and forgoing wage increases, to help the city offset lost revenue early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beyond increases in pay, the new contract also creates written policies on remote work and sick leave, codifies Juneteenth as a paid city holiday for AFSCME employees and provides a $1,250 ratification bonus to each covered employee.

Reid compared the contract’s commitments to employment legislation recently considered by City Council, such as the Fair Workweek Ordinance and increases to Evanston’s minimum wage.

“We are making sure that we are being good employers, and that we are providing our employees with the wages and the benefits that they need to live lives of dignity,” Reid said. “I hope to see us in four years building on what we have done here.”

Alex Harrison reports on local government, public safety, developments, town-gown relations and more for the RoundTable. He graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in June...

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