California’s largest state employee union has taken the first step to strike, authorizing a membership vote amid contract negotiations with the Brown administration.
The move by SEIU Local 1000 follows a July 8 offer from Gov. Jerry Brown that included a 12 percent salary increase over four years for the 95,000-employee union, but would require higher payments toward retiree health benefits. The union’s contract expired July 1.
“This pivotal decision comes right after our statewide town hall tour, in which our bargaining team heard from you loud and clear that the state’s contract proposal falls short of our members’ priorities,” SEIU 1000 President Yvonne R. Walker said in a statement.
The statement, posted on the union’s website, said the board approved a statewide membership vote on Saturday to include “any and all concerted actions, up to and including a strike.” With that power now in its arsenal, the union is setting up new bargaining dates with the Democratic governor, according to the statement.
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A union spokesman declined to elaborate beyond Walker’s statement. The Brown administration had no comment other than, “The state looks forward to continuing our dialogue with our labor partners.”
Not all state workers are happy with the decision.
“I think it’s using a big stick to swat a fly,” Michael Kimball, a nurse practitioner at the state’s Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, said Monday.
Kimball is not a member of Local 1000 but still pays “fair share” dues because his contract is negotiated by the union. He said he would like to see a better salary offer from the state, particularly after workers suffered from years of furloughs, but doesn’t think a strike is the best option because Brown “is not Arnold Schwarzenegger or George Deukmejian,” referring to Brown’s Republican predecessors.
“I don’t think that threatening a strike against a governor who is pro-union and always has been is the way to go,” he said.