Capitol Alert

Will California state workers vote to raise their pay?

Mariam Noujaim, member of the SEIU Local 1000, stands near the DMV offices in Sacramento on Friday, November 16, 2012.
Mariam Noujaim, member of the SEIU Local 1000, stands near the DMV offices in Sacramento on Friday, November 16, 2012. The Sacramento Bee

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The money’s on the table, but will members of state government’s largest union take it?

Members of SEIU Local 1000, who began voting Wednesday and will continue through Jan. 17, are considering a long-awaited contract that raises their pay by 11.5 percent over 42 months and includes pay boosts for certain employees by considerably higher margins.

But the deal – reached after SEIU declared itself ready to strike last month – is not a sure thing.

A clutch of SEIU members are urging their colleagues to shoot it down, arguing that workers were actually better off with a deal Gov. Jerry Brown offered earlier this year.

One state worker, systems specialist Bhavdeep Sachdev, created an online calculator for SEIU members to compare the offers. (SEIU officials have contested the calculator, calling it an unfair comparison.)

“I find it hard to believe that we were ready to strike over this horrible contract, and now it’s wonderful,” said Elsa Wright of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. She’s managing a Facebook page that’s both urging a “no” vote and encouraging SEIU members to recall the union’s leadership.

The anti-contract advocates draw from the groups of SEIU members who unsuccessfully tried to recall SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker in August.

SEIU Local 1000’s executive board has endorsed the contract, and the union on its website is sharing testimonials from workers who support it. “Without all of our hard work, the state would have taken a lot away,” one SEIU member wrote.

“We fought hard to achieve a contract we can all be proud of; a contract that respects our work, values the services we provide to all Californians, and allows us to better provide for our families,” Walker said in a statement to The Bee.

SEIU Local 1000 posted a list of polling locations on its website. It’s also allowing members to vote by mail.

The union represents some 96,000 workers across a wide range of job classifications, from custodians to tax auditors and nurses.

In addition to the raises, the proposed contract includes a $2,500 bonus, training opportunities and a new task force that would consider compensation increases for employees in particularly expensive communities.

Gov. Jerry Brown, reacting on Dec. 5, 2016 to a tentative contract for California's largest state worker union, said the administration must be prudent.

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This story was updated at 9 a.m on Jan. 9 to note SEIU’s characterization of the online contract calculator.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton

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