The State Worker

California’s contract ‘sunshine’ season opens, no light expected

Professional Engineers in California Government Executive Director Bruce Blanning. The union’s contract expires this summer.
Professional Engineers in California Government Executive Director Bruce Blanning. The union’s contract expires this summer. Sacramento Bee 2012 file

The Department of Human Resources will throw wide its doors on Friday for state unions and the administration to publicly present their initial contract proposals in a public forum.

The so-called “sunshine meeting” is the first of three that are supposed to offer an opportunity for the public to see the proposals and comment on them. But the meetings are really just codified formalities.

In 2013, for example, the union representing the state’s building-equipment operators delivered a sunshine letter that cited the 19 articles in its expiring contract, followed with one of two statments for each: “No Change,” or “The Union wishes to make changes to this article.” That was it.

Contracts for the state’s building-equipment operators, engineers, scientists and prison officers officers expire at the end of June or the beginning of July.

The real bargaining starts at the table in a few weeks or months. The biggest points of contention, such Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal for state-employee and retiree health benefits, will get hammered out higher up the union/government food chain, likely much closer to when the agreements expire or later.

In the past, governors and union heads have personally engaged to resolve the thorniest issues.

But the law is the law, so CalHR will hold sunshine meetings on Friday and on March 12 and 19. All three begin at 1 p.m. at 1515 S Street in the Integrity Conference Room on the 4th floor.

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.

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