WatchSonoma Watch

52% of county workers OK contract



Sonoma County government’s largest labor union voted Tuesday by a slim 52 percent majority to approve a proposed labor contract that would balance a short-term salary freeze with future-year wage growth.

SEIU 1021 union members with the County of Sonoma rally in front of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in Santa Rosa in 2012. (PD File)

SEIU 1021 union members with the County of Sonoma rally in front of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in Santa Rosa in 2012. (PD File)

But because not all six county bargaining units in Service Employees International Union Local 1021 concurred in the ratification vote, union officials were unclear about its legal outcome.

Lathe Gill, the union’s Santa Rosa-based area director, said officials would be reviewing the result with attorneys, a process he said could take “a few days.”

The uncertainty has to do with whether the union follows past practice, which required majority approval by all bargaining units, or whether an overall majority is enough to ratify the contract, as dictated by current union bylaws, Gill said.

“The vote was close enough that that is in question,” he said.

He added that any final determination was likely to face an internal challenge within the union, a sign of how contested negotiations have been with the 1,700-member organization, representing nearly half of all county employees.

About three-quarters of the 1,200 SEIU members eligible to vote participated in the election, Gill said.

Jim Leddy, a county spokesman, said the county was pleased to hear about the majority vote Tuesday night. But he said county officials were awaiting word from the union before offering any additional comment.

The muddled result leaves talks between the two sides in limbo. Approval of the agreement could defuse what has been an escalating legal fight between the union and the county. Rejection, however, would set the stage for an even more protracted battle, including a likely strike.

Tuesday’s vote was the second by the union after 11 months of protracted negotiations. In the previous vote, in December, union members overwhelmingly rejected a package that would have extended a now five-year freeze on cost-of-living adjustments to wages for an additional three years.

The new proposal offered a shorter, 16-month freeze in exchange for a total bump of 3 percent over the second 16 months of the contract

It also included additional money toward employee health care costs.

Pension cuts and additional cost-sharing by employees in retirement benefits were a part of both packages.

The union’s previous contract expired in August. The new deal would extend to October 2015. If approved, it would go to the Board of Supervisors in March.

The standoff has been closely watched because any deal with SEIU could determine the outcome of contract talks under way with most other county employee bargaining groups. Agreement with a majority of the unionized employees is needed before proposed pay and pension cuts for managers, elected officials and other unrepresented workers take effect.

County officials say cuts are needed to free up money for government services and public infrastructure, including road repairs, and to pay off long-term liabilities to the county pension system, currently at $353 million.

Union officials have criticized the proposed concessions, which come amid a slow rebound in government revenue and after years of job cuts, pay freezes, unpaid furloughs and other reductions aimed to fill large, recession-era deficits.

SEIU represents rank-and-file employees in most county departments except for public safety divisions. The employees tend to be among the lowest paid in county government.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.

5 Responses to “52% of county workers OK contract”

  1. Steveguy says:

    Mockingbird, that is obvious, but I am talking about REAL waste and favoritism that can result in firing.

    So far, the rank and file are very afraid to rat out the waste and do-nothing wasteful programs that are leeching your money pot dry.

    I am talking REAL whistle blowing, and am sure if you had hard evidence and back-up that the PD would love it.

    I am actually on the rank an file’s side, but some jobs are redundant or plain not needed.

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  2. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Steveguy-SEIU HAS BEEN complaining about management numbers which FROM NUMBERS OBTAINED FROM THE CAO’S OFFICE is approx 5.73 rank and file to each manager (5.73:1). Screaming about it, in fact, since 2008 when the management got a 3% raise the the rank and file got bupkus. Where have you been? The PD prints what it wants to print and that seems to be in line with what the BOS and the county wants them to know.

    The county is busy contracting out rank and file county jobs and hiring MORE MANAGERS to manage those contracts. This will cost the county more for shoddy services with no real oversight. County employees are accountable for the work they do, are trained and skilled workers. Every county employee laid off is a hit to the local economy and a hit to public services.

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  3. Steveguy says:

    52% is slim for the rank and file. When are you folks going to blow the whistle on wasteful management ? The PD would love to hear from you, with back-up proof.

    Until then, the public will not back you up, as you are seen as ” one of them”. Really

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  4. SantaRosaCitizen says:

    I think management should take a 3% pay cut (which is what they got during the last round, and SEIU did not), and give up their deferred comp. Then moving forward, the County can talk about reasonable cost of living increases for all.

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  5. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    52% is not a majority. Each bargaining unit needs to pass it and several haven’t.

    The contract stinks. As for the BOS and management waiting for SEIU to pass this BEFORE they take their own “cuts”, it’s nonsense. In 2008 THEY TOOK THEIR CHANGES FIRST. Of course those changes were a 3% RAISE and cash to put towards their healthcare. SEIU employees DID NOT GET A 3% raise and a contract was imposed on them.

    Can’t believe anything the BOS and county management tells you. The BOS are trying to please the voters on the backs of the rank and file AGAIN while they continue to add new management positions and grant huge contracts to their favorite corporations behind the public’s back. SEIU has been trying for years to get equity from the PD articles and present reality to the public, butting their heads against the brick wall of PD favoritism to the status quo of rich corporations, managers and BOS members.

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