Local 12-652 Wins Major Wage Increases, Other Improvements at Idaho National Laboratory

Local 12-652 members at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory overwhelmingly ratified a five-year agreement on June 15 that contained major wage increases and contract language improvements.

The contract with Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) covers 24 different work classifications in maintenance and operations for about 380 members who work on the Advanced Test Reactor and the nuclear research and development side of Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

The contract is the best the local’s negotiated in years, said Local 12-652 President Matt Chavez, who has worked 39 years at INL and negotiated contracts for over 20 years.

One reason is a change in the relationship with BEA.

“We used to have a bad relationship with BEA,” he said. “They don’t want to fight with us anymore and really want to work with us. We left nothing on the table.”

Substantial wage increases

The local did especially well when it came to wage increases, with at least 280 workers receiving substantial raises, Chavez said.

Normally, every classification would receive the same percentage wage increase. But with a big construction project coming up, neither BEA nor the USW wanted to lose the young USW-represented pipefitters, electricians and craft workers.

To retain these young workers, BEA conducted three market-based wage analyses that compared USW craft workers to similar workers in the region. Some received as much as an 18.9 percent raise over the five-year contract term to bring them in line with similar workers in the region.

Workers will get their first-year wage increase retroactive to Feb. 28, 2021—the expiration date of the previous agreement.

Substantial contract language gains

Wages were not the only area USW workers gained significant improvements.

Previously, the extra payments workers received for being upgraded to a supervisory position temporarily, for getting retention and reactor certification pay in the Advanced Test Reactor group, for shift pay, and for compensation for being a full-time health and safety rep. were not part of the BEA contract.

This round of negotiations changed that. Now, all those payments are listed in the new contract’s language. By being in the contract, these payments are added into a worker’s base pay, so it boosts their retirement money over time.

“We got contract language concerning personal protective equipment that we needed, and this was a big win, too, because we had been fighting with the contractor over protective clothing,” Chavez said.

He said the new agreement also has good contract language that makes it hard for BEA to subcontract USW work, and the new language enables the local to have more than one full-time health and safety rep.

Another improvement is in the number of Employee in Charge (EIC) positions on a project. There used to be only three such lead positions in the local and now every job classification has one. 

Overall, the local obtained many of its 45 proposals and beat back the few negative ones from BEA.  

“I am proud of all our negotiating committee members,” Chavez said. “Any local would like to have these negotiating committee members because they are that good.”

The USW-BEA contract will expire February 2026.

Pictured above: Idaho National Laboratory workers. Photo courtesy Dept. of Energy.

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