If history is a guide, the one-day strike that SEIU Local 1000 just announced for Dec. 5 will not happen. While state employee unions periodically authorize walkouts, including Local 1000 in 2009, none has actually taken place.
That gives the Brown administration a week to wrap up contract negotiations with California’s largest public sector union, which represents about 95,000 workers in nine of its 21 bargaining units, or risk embarrassing disruptions for lawmakers’ return to the Capitol on the first day of the new session and during the annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony that evening.
But while the possible work stoppage would be unprecedented, it might also be illegal: Local 1000 has a no-strike clause in its contract.
It’s the first point the union addresses in a Q&A for members that was published Tuesday after the strike announcement, citing a 1984 order by the Public Employees Relation Board.
“The fact that the Union engaged in the strike in good faith can serve as a defense to any charges of illegality,” the post states.
Local 1000 and the Brown administration have been in talks since April, with the two sides yet to agree over terms of a proposed four-year raise and an increase in employee contributions for health care.
In its Q&A, the union argues “the State has committed an unfair labor practice by bargaining in bad faith” and presents six reasons, including refusing to consider gender pay inequities, unilaterally changing the calculations of health care costs, threatening state workers with discipline if they picket, and taking “an illegal take-it-or-leave-it approach to bargaining.”
Without addressing any of those specific charges, the administration has disputed the characterization. The state “has been committed to bargaining in good faith,” it said in a statement Tuesday, and “will continue good faith negotiations during this process until an agreement is reached.”
The Q&A also provides information on where workers can find a picket line and on manager-retaliation and leave issues. Local 1000 has set up a hotline number for a strike legal defense team that members are urged to call if someone tries to punish them or prevent them from participating in the walkout.
The post clarifies that members will not be paid if they go on strike and that the union will not provide financial support to participants because its “strike fund is established for long-term economic strikes.” But it urges employees not to go to work as normal on Dec. 5.
“You will be undermining your co-workers’ fight for a better contract, and our union’s efforts to hold the state accountable to good faith bargaining,” the Q&A states.