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FLATWOODS, WV     On May 25th, Members of Local 537's "Northern Districts" ratified a 5-year deal that provides significant wage improvements and various other benefits. These members work for West Virginia American Water Company, and are situated throughout North Central West Virginia. This contract provides terms and conditions to 4 Districts within Local 537.

The five-year deal guarantees these members wage increases over the life of the agreement, with more than a 6 percent bump upon ratification. Additional improvements include a call-out minimum of 4 hours for all employees; Improved compensation for on-call standby pay; Increased shift differentials; Favorable language changes in the grievance procedure; Increase in the annual boot allowance; Increase in the annual clothing allowance, in addition to Company provided high visibility safety wear; Short term and long term paid leave for service in the Armed Forces; 3 additional weeks in their sick leave bank maximum; and "Me Too" language with regard to a Drug and Alcohol Policy which is being negotiated by American Water and Local 537 currently.

The negotiations were lead by System President J. Kevin Booth, and required only a short span of time to reach agreement. "This is the second contract I've negotiated this year with an American Water Subsidiary," said Booth. "We bring a new concept to the table, and it requires both sides to actually communicate and view the issues from different perspectives," Booth continued. System Vice-President, Greg Lanham assisted during these negotiations. "We represent members in three States, and we don't take a National view of our members or contracts," Lanham said. "Instead, we focus on what is most important to our members in each location, and work with our employers to reach win-win agreements," Lanham continued. James Barnette, II, the President of Local 537's Northern Districts was pleased with the process. "Booth and Lanham took the time to learn what was important to us here locally. I think our members appreciate what they have done for us." This was a pleasant and productive process," said Barnette. "We have a fair contract that will provide benefits for us over the next five years," Barnette continued.

"Across Local 537's footprint in the region, Labor/Management relationships have been improving greatly," said Booth. "It takes a lot of work on both sides to get where we are today. Our relationships are being built and strengthened at the local level. I believe that having the best relationships at the top do little or nothing if you don't have great relationships at the bottom," Booth continued. "We believe these improved relationships will pay dividends as we move through the many contract negotiations in front of us over the next year," Lanham said.

System Local 537 is currently preparing for contract negotiations in the Wilkes-Barre Scranton District and their Outside Districts in Western Pennsylvania. Additionally, they will be bargaining Health and Pension benefits in the coming months for all of their American Water subsidiaries throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland.

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