With collective bargaining obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has opted for a one-year extension on its current agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 1191W Union.

The agreement, unanimously approved by the Walla Walla City Council on its consent agenda Wednesday, also provides a 2% raise for non-uniformed employees, police and fire. The agreement also includes an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $13.69 in 2021.

The raises take effect Jan. 1.

City staff recommended the action to Council at its virtual meeting, which included executing a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and AFSCME 1191 W Union for a one-year extension.

The union contract serves non-uniformed employees, police and fire. It includes non-exempt positions in Parks and Recreation, Public Works, the police department, engineers, Development Services, library, and administrative positions in various departments.

The contract does not include employees such as the city manager or city attorney.

Those will be on the table at the next Council meeting on Dec. 2, Human Resources Director Pam Taylor said.

The contract usually runs three years, but due to the coronavirus pandemic and the impact on the city’s revenue and budget, the union and the city chose instead to extend the current contract with the minor changes, she said.

The last contract from 2018 to 2020 included a 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for each contract year, she said.

“At this time, it is difficult to project three years of COLAs with all the uncertainty of the pandemic,” Taylor said. “An extension allows us to maintain the current contract and, in this case, increase the COLA for 2021.”

The bargaining team had limited negotiations and only allowed four people to meet for a couple of sessions.

Usually, the teams are up to six people on the union side and three for the city, she said.

“We hope to be able to negotiate the entire contract beginning in June or July,” Taylor said. “Of course, we will need to play this by ear.”

Chloe LeValley can be reached at chloelevalley@wwub.com or 509-526-8326.

Chloe LeValley covers the cities of Walla Walla and College Place as well as agriculture and the environment in the Walla Walla Valley. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University and joined the Union-Bulletin's team in October 2019.