Jerry Brown says he has to be cautious in state worker contract deals
The state workers whose union called off a strike last week will have to wait until next summer for a raise under a tentative contract their leaders approved, but they’ll get a $2,500 bonus if they accept the deal.
Those are some of the details in a contract outline that SEIU Local 1000 distributed to its members Monday morning.
The value of the contract appears to be similar to the one Gov. Jerry Brown initially offered to the union, although it delays and reduces the impact of a new retiree health care contribution that will come out of employee paychecks in coming years.
According to SEIU, employees would receive 4 percent raises on July 1, 2017, and on July 1, 2018. They would get a 3.5 percent wage hike on July 1, 2019.
Workers would receive signing bonuses after the Legislature approved the deal and Gov. Jerry Brown signed that legislation.
Employees would begin making contributions toward their retiree health benefits at a rate of 1.2 percent of their salary on July 1, 2018. That contribution would increase to 2.3 percent the following year.
Brown’s initial offer called for a raise of just under 12 percent spaced over four years that would be offset by retiree health contributions totaling 3.5 percent by 2019.
The retiree health care contributions are intended to pay down an unfunded $74 billion liability that the state faces. Other unions began making contributions toward retiree health care this year.
In remarks to reporters Monday, Brown called the tentative contract a careful use of taxpayer dollars.
“We want to be careful because the economy is uncertain (and) the revenue stream is not everything we would like. So we want to be prudent,” Brown said. “We had seven fat years. We may be coming in to seven lean years.”
SEIU Local 1000 represents some 95,000 workers spanning a diverse set of careers such as custodians, nurses, information technology specialists and general office workers.
Approval of the contract would cap a dramatic year for SEIU Local 1000, state government’s largest union.
Contract talks began eight months ago, with workers demonstrating for a higher wage increase than Brown offered. They pointed to the state’s stable economy and wanted to make up for lean years they experienced during the recession.
In June, the union’s board of directors approved a new stipend for SEIU’s elected leaders, substantially increasing the pay of President Yvonne Walker and three union vice presidents.
In August, a dissident group of SEIU members filed a failed petition to recall those leaders.
SEIU’s contract expired in July and the union hosted a series of forums where its active members reiterated their request for a higher wage increase than Brown offered. In November, union members authorized a strike over the contract.
Walker set a strike date for Monday. The union canceled the strike on Friday, citing progress on the expired contract.
Walker on Saturday morning announced that union leaders in an overnight bargaining session had reached a deal that “we can all be proud of.”
As details leaked over the weekend, SEIU’s internal critics began urging members to turn down the contract. They argued employees would be better off holding out for another deal.
“You do not have to accept (Walker’s) recommendation, you can reject this bad offer and send her back to the bargaining table,” a dissident group called We Are Local 1000 wrote in a critique of the proposal.