As a majority equity investor of Rialto Water Services (RWS), Ullico Infrastructure Fund (UIF) agreed to take over existing water distribution and wastewater collection and treatment facilities from the city of Rialto, California, in November 2012 for a period of 30 years.
City workers who operated the facilities kept their jobs, but they became private-sector employees of Veolia Water West, which now manages day-to-day operations through a contract with RWS. Per the terms of the contract, Veolia agreed to maintain a neutral position with respect to the workers organizing. “The anticipation was that the employees would choose to organize at some point,” said Sonia Axter, Managing Director, Ullico Infrastructure Fund.
This summer, the 40-plus employees conducted a card count and voted to join the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 12 in southern California. In turn, Veolia signed an agreement recognizing Local 12 as the operating union, and both parties moved immediately to begin to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. “It’s definitely seen as a positive step within the community. It was important to the City of Rialto at the time of the investment that the existing employees were respected in the process, given long-term job security and afforded equal benefits to what they were receiving,” said Axter.
UIF’s investment will also make possible critical capital improvements to the water and wastewater infrastructure of Rialto, California. The capital improvements will be done with union labor, in accordance with UIF’s pro-organized labor contracting policies. It is estimated by RWS that these improvements will produce 445 jobs for members of the local building and construction trades.