SACRAMENTO, Calif. (PAI) — Fed up by state officials’ stonewalling after seven months of contract talks, some 95,000 California state workers, represented by Service Employees (SEIU) Local 1000, voted for a 1-day statewide strike on December 5. The strike threat was pending as of this writing.
While their union, which represents teachers, nurses, librarians, custodians, IT analysts, inspectors and more, is not legally required to give the state notice of its intent to walk out, it did so with a 92 percent-8 percent strike authorization vote in mid-November.
Pay, or lack of it, is one key issue, SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said. The state’s only offer, in July, was a 2.96 percent yearly increase, offset by an added 3.5 percent employee contribution to funding their future health care as retirees.
The union has also raised issues of pay inequity and the state’s plan to shift 20 percent of health care costs to the workers. The state refused to discuss them, Walker says.
“We still believe the state can do better,” Walker said. “Our intention is to continue to negotiate in good faith on all remaining terms. But both sides have to act in good faith. When the state’s conduct doesn’t meet this standard — on livable wages and benefits — we must prepare for all options.
“We are giving notice out of concern for our families and the communities we serve,” she added. “The state has provided no explanation or justification for its unlawful conduct and it is our duty and responsibility to hold them accountable.” The union says state bargainers have been negotiating in bad faith, breaking labor law.
The state’s demand has been a take-it-or-leave-it offer on that last pay proposal, she added. Walker also quoted state officials as saying that rejection of that proposal would bring “regressive bargaining” ideas to the table. She was not specific. The state kept its plans secret.
California has the money for decent raises, the union notes, citing the state’s non-partisan legislative budget office. That agency puts California’s reserves at $11.5 billion. And the state is running budget surpluses.
By contrast, the workers’ pay has stalled so much that 39 percent of Local 1000 members – two-thirds of whom are female—cannot afford to rent a decent apartment or afford child care in much of the state.
“Local 1000 members are predominately women, yet they are paid 19 percent less than the average for all rank-and-file state employees combined, according to the State Controller’s Office September 2016 data,” according to the union.
“The state has committed an unfair labor practice by bargaining in bad faith” by refusing to consider pay inequities, unilaterally changing the calculations of health care costs, threatening state workers with discipline if they picket, unilaterally changing civil service law, and taking “an illegal take-it-or-leave-it approach to bargaining,” Walker told her members.
State officials deny the charges. They also say they’re bargaining in good faith, and invoke the past contract’s no-strike clause.
For its part, Local 1000 says its legal defense team will defend any members whose bosses threaten to discipline them for the strike, while its strike fund will take care of members’ financial concerns.