By Miriam Raftery
Photo: SEIU via Facebook
August 30, 2017 (San Diego) – Last night, Service Employees International Union Local 221 workers voted to hold a strike on September 12 and 13 over what the union contends are unfair labor practices. The union represents over 10,000 county employees in San Diego and Imperial Counties including public workers in county and city governments as well as school districts. Those workers include public health nurses, social services employees, librarians, clerical staff and more.
“The County is forcing SEIU Local 221 members to schedule an Unfair Labor Practice strike by not bargaining in good faith,” a statement issued by the union says. According to the union, the county management team ended mediation last week after three days at the bargaining table. The union accuses the county of “failing to provide essential information, imposing unlawful deadlines on the bargaining process and intimidating workers” among other charges. SEIU also contends that the county has made “worse and worse proposals to employees, which is regressive bargaining—an illegal practice.”
The specific charges made by SEIU include lack of notice to the union before Supervisors voted to move forward on proposed outsourcing of Animal Services, a change in the dress code, failure to provide health plan information, a change in travel time for bargaining, and more. Find links and details here: http://www.seiu221.org/2017/08/28/unfair-labor-practice-charges-against-...
Asked about SEIU’s unfair labor practices charges, County Communications Director Michael Workman told East County Magazine on Wednesday, “We find them all to be without merit. They are simply a way for them to stage a strike before impasse procedures end. For the record, impasse has not even been declared.”
He contends that it was SEIU that walked out of negotiations, though SEIU says it is willing to return to bargaining if the county will do so in good faith.
Workman states in an email to ECM, “What was on the table and still on the table is our Last Best and Final offer.” Specifically, he says that’s a five-year deal with a 13% total wage increase over those five years and a 35% increase in health and welfare credits, as well as a new retirement tier for new employees starting in July 2018 “designed to make our defined benefit pension sustainable in the long term. “The total package cost is $495 million, says Workman, adding, “SEIU is asking for a 3-year deal worth about $636 million.”
An SEIU worker in the County’s Health and Human Services department, who spoke under condition his name not be published, said, “San Diego County employees are among the lowest paid county employees in the country…I see turnover. People are leaving our county for higher paying jobs. I had a coworker who moved out of state; she had a daughter and couldn’t afford to stay here.”
He added, “I know there are people out there who think we are greedy, but the reason we are doing this is because the county is not bargaining in good faith.”
The strike would be the first by county workers since 1994; that strike lasted one day.
SEIU represents about 10,000 of the county’s 17,000 employees. The union statement indicated “thousands” voted at about 60 work locations. Workman says only about 2,500 actually cast ballots.