The largest group of unionized Sonoma County government employees plans to strike next month to protest what it says is county inaction on a union proposal to save taxpayer money and several other issues it says amount to unfair labor practices.
A split Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected a disputed policy that would have required union rules, benefits and oversight for all workers on large county construction projects. Nearly five hours into a hearing before a standing-room-only crowd, the board was opposed, 3-2, to the blanket policy and let it die. It would have backed a pre-hire collective bargaining deal, called a project labor agreement, on all county construction projects of at least $25 million.
Politicians and union leaders rallied Monday at the annual Labor Day breakfast in Santa Rosa, emphatically urging the crowd to vote for Democratic and labor candidates and issues.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to overhaul public pensions rippled through the North Bay on Thursday, drawing mixed reaction from public employees, labor leaders, elected officials and fiscal watchdogs. Aspects of his 12-point proposal could impact nearly all of Sonoma County’s approximately 25,000 state, city, school and county workers. But the most sweeping changes would apply to future hires only.
Occupy Santa Rosa protesters brought their demonstration to the City Council on Tuesday, calling for the withdrawal of public funds from major financial institutions such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo. They also brought a list of more mundane requests, including an amendment of an ordinance that prohibits camping at City Hall and permission to install a portable toilet.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is spreading across the United States. Protests against the influence of the superwealthy have taken place in more than 100 cities. On Saturday, organizers expect up to 1,000 demonstrators at a rally in Santa Rosa to call attention to the economic pressures on working Americans.
North Bay labor unions and Rep. Lynn Woolsey called for a massive federal jobs program Tuesday, saying it’s the only way to jump-start a flagging U.S. economy. “This is a national emergency,” Woolsey said. “We need government to take a major role.” Critics, however, questioned the cost.
A smaller than expected crowd turned out Sunday in Santa Rosa for the annual May Day day rally to champion workers’ rights. Police estimated 800 to 1,000 people participated in the peaceful demonstration. Last year, about 3,500 people joined the rally, which attracted as many as 10,000 in 2006.
Labor and immigrant rights activists are scheduled to hold a May 1 march and rally on Sunday in Santa Rosa. The afternoon procession will take participants from Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood through downtown to Juilliard Park. It is aimed at bringing awareness to the plight of both workers and immigrants.
Eighty-four percent of the nearly 6,000 city and county employees in Sonoma County are represented by unions or associations that bargain for wages and benefits, a process at the crux of a national debate. With school employees added to the mix, the share of the nearly 27,000 public workers in the county who are covered by collective bargaining agreements is about 90 percent.