City employees voted overwhelmingly to ratify the contract between their union, the Houston Organization of Public Employees (HOPE), and the City of Houston. In balloting over the last two weeks, HOPE members voted 3,237 to 7 in favor of the three-year agreement. That result comes after a canvass that added 675 provisional ballots to the total. The ballots were counted Thursday night at the Kelley Solid Waste facility and the tally was overseen by prominent community leaders, including Rev. James Nash of Sunnyside Presbyterian Church and Laura Boston of the Houston Interfaith Workers’ Center. The agreement now goes before the Houston City Council for final approval. If approved by the council, it will be the first-ever union contract between a Texas city and its civilian municipal workers. “This agreement is great for Houston,” said Patricia Mathis, a HOPE bargaining team member and management analyst with the Houston Police Department. “The contract will enhance quality public services for the city and ensure a living wage for every city worker.” 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 city 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, more than 1,200 city workers have donated vacation time into the pool.
- Worker-management consultation committees that will promote idea-sharing and better communication on the job in order to strengthen city services.
The contract will also have a major impact on Houston’s struggling neighborhoods, where many city workers live. HOPE estimates that the across-the-board raises in the contract will generate an additional $120 million in economic activity in neighborhoods like the Third Ward and East End over the next three years.