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FARMINGTON — The United Mine Workers of America and the Navajo Nation have finalized a collective bargaining agreement for the UMWA to represent approximately 1,300 tribal employees.

The agreement was ratified in a mail-in ballot vote by employees this summer, according to a press release from the union.

Bob Butero, Region IV organizing director, said 55 percent of employees voted in favor of the agreement.

"It's going to be a new experience," Butero said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Under the agreement, the tribe agrees to recognize the union as the sole collective bargaining agent with respect to wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment for full-time employees.

Among the job classifications listed in the agreement are accounting, administrative assistants, technicians, clerks, operators, maintenance and construction.

Butero said the agreement is valid for three years with the option to discuss matters such as benefits and wages each year.

UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said in the release that he welcomes the tribal employees.

"Our Navajo sisters and brothers bring a special and refreshing outlook to our union, and we rejoice that they have been able to reach this agreement after a long process," Roberts said.

Butero said it took 15 years of negotiations to reach the agreement, which was signed by former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly in 2014 then underwent review by the employees before this summer's vote occurred.

Prior to Monday's announcement, the union has been representing about 800 employees of Navajo Head Start for nine years.

They also represent workers at the Kayenta Mine, which is operated by the Peabody Western Coal Co. in Arizona.

Butero added the union is continuing to negotiate with the tribe to represent employees in the tribe's Division of Public Safety.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.

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