The State Worker

State union contracts are expiring. Gavin Newsom is picking a new bargaining team

Gov. Gavin Newsom is replacing the state officials who handle union negotiations as California enters a busy year for collective bargaining.

He announced this week that he appointed a new director of CalHR, the department that sets state human resources policies and oversees contract negotiations.

Eraina Ortega, 45, of Sacramento succeeds Adria Jenkins-Jones, the department’s chief deputy director who filled in as acting director for about six months. Ortega, who most recently was inspector general in the Caltrans Office of Audits and Investigations, also will sit on the CalPERS Board of Administration.

On Thursday, CalHR also notified its employees that the department’s deputy director, Pam Manwiller, has left her position. Former Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her deputy director of labor relations in 2013. The email said a replacement is expected soon.

The message asks CalHR labor specialists to delay requests to meet with union representatives.

“As many of you are aware, with the change of administration there are subsequent changes within CalHR Labor Relations,” the email reads.

Five bargaining units representing about 46,000 state workers have contracts expiring in July. The contract for SEIU Local 1000, the state’s largest union representing about 95,000 employees, expires in January.

Newsom won election last year with support from the state’s public employee unions. He signaled at a January news conference that he was mindful about the cost of labor contracts, noting that a 1 percent increase in wages for correctional officers could drive up state spending by $50 million.

Manwiller helped the Brown administration negotiate contracts that sometimes extracted difficult concessions from unions following the Great Recession. In particular, Brown insisted that unions accept new paycheck deductions that are intended to pay for the health care public employees will use in retirement.

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SEIU Local 1000 nearly held a strike in 2016 during contract negotiations. A contract agreement reached shortly before the scheduled strike gave the union two years of 4 percent raises and a 3.5 percent raise while requiring them for the first time to contribute 2.3 percent of their salaries to their retiree health benefits.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents state maintenance workers, also had an 18-month standoff during the Brown administration over a contract its members didn’t like.

Unions that had contracts expire in Brown’s last year tended to negotiate deals that were more popular with their members. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association reached a deal last year for a 5 percent raise, which the Legislative Analyst’s Office called “large.”

The Professional Engineers in California Government and California Association of Professional Scientists also won agreements with Brown last year that gave them similar raises without significant concessions.

Up for negotiation this year are contracts with California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers in State Employment; the California Correctional Peace Officers Association; the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association; the International Union of Operating Engineers and the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians.

“Eraina brings a wealth of experience in financial management, labor and employee relations to CalHR and we look forward to having her lead constructive conversations at the bargaining table with our represented employees,” Newsom spokesman Brian Ferguson said in an email.

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