Houston city employees are wrapping up a historic two-week contract ratification vote Thursday night. The city workers and prominent community leaders will be counting ballots cast to determine support for a groundbreaking contract negotiated between the City of Houston and the employees’ union, the Houston Organization of Public Employees (HOPE). If HOPE members vote to ratify the agreement, it will go to the Houston city council for approval. If approved, it will be the first union contract ever between a Texas city and its civilian employees. “This agreement will benefit every resident and every neighborhood in Houston,” said Rev. James Nash of the Sunnyside Presbyterian Church, one of the community leaders overseeing the count. “Its approval will ensure respect for the hard work of our public employees and guarantee that those who have waited so long for a living wage won’t have to wait any longer.” The contract would establish a minimum wage of $10 an hour for city workers by September 2009 and immediately create a $9.50 an hour minimum — a 45 percent raise for the lowest-paid employees. Other highlights of the agreement include:
– A community action leave pool in which city workers can donate vacation time to be used for volunteering on important community projects. Already, city workers have donated more than 1,000 hours of vacation time.
– Worker-management consultation committees that will promote idea-sharing and better communication on the job in order to strengthen city services.
HOPE reached a tentative agreement with the city on March 5.