The State Worker

Health care perk nets California state workers an extra $3,100 a year through SEIU contract

The state’s largest union has reached a tentative contract agreement with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s bargaining team that provides a 7 percent raise over three years and boosts take-home compensation with perks that include new or increased stipends for health care, commuting and bilingual speakers.

SEIU Local 1000’s proposed contract would give $260 per month to workers with CalPERS health plans to go toward their insurance premiums, according to a summary of the agreement the union posted to its website Thursday. That adds up to $3,120 a year for each worker represented by the union.

The amount matches the average Local 1000 employee’s contribution toward their health insurance, said union president Yvonne Walker.

“It hits our members differently,” Walker said. “It is particularly significant for our low-wage workers, because a flat dollar amount is different from a percentage.”

The agreement accelerates California’s schedule for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. All Local 1000 members will get $15 per hour starting next year, Walker said, while the state’s schedule doesn’t reach $15 per hour until 2022.

Walker said the union shaped its approach to bargaining based on feedback members offered in 25 town hall meetings around the state before bargaining started.

“The key things that came out, the things that we heard from our members were, ‘hey, I’m struggling, I can’t afford rent, I can’t afford my commute, I have to live farther out, my compensation needs an adjustment,” she said.

The union represents about 96,000 state employees ranging from custodians to nurses and information technology specialists. The agreement would provide a 2.5 percent general salary increase for all Local 1000 employees on July 1, 2020; a 2 percent increase in July 2021 and 2.5 percent in July 2022.

Its current contract, which over three and a half years provided two 4 percent raises and a 3.5 percent raise along with a $2,500 bonus, expires in January.

The union’s last contract cost the state about $5.2 billion. CalHR hasn’t yet posted a summary of the three-year agreement, which would include an estimate of its total cost.

Other state unions have received raises in the range of 2.5 percent to 3 percent per year. No others have received a health insurance premium offset.

As with other union deals, the agreement would provide a range of special salary increases for specific job classifications. Local 1000’s summary doesn’t detail percentages for the special raises or which job classifications would get them. Walker said most are 5 percent, while some range up to about 10 percent.

The agreement, which will require approval from union members and the Legislature, would make available a $250-per-month pay bump for workers living in Orange, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties. Walker said the union wasn’t able to get location-based differentials for every county it wanted, including San Francisco County.

The agreement would increase commuting stipends to $100 per month from $65 per month, and would add a $20 bicycling stipend.

“In order to find affordable housing, they live farther and farther away (from work),” Walker said. “Transportation is going up, whether it’s buying your bus pass, your train pass, depending on where you’re living.”

Bilingual speakers also would see an increase in pay. They’ll be eligible for a $200 monthly stipend, up from the current $100.

Local 1000’s summary says the agreement would phase out the state’s mandatory overtime requirements by 2023, would require departments to offer flexible work schedules and would add a workplace violence and bullying prevention provision. It will also create a “future work” task force that Walker said could address everything from outdated job classifications to automation in some jobs.

The update says more details will be provided in coming days.

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Wes Venteicher anchors The Bee’s popular State Worker coverage in the newspaper’s Capitol Bureau. He covers taxes, pensions, unions, state spending and California government. A Montana native, he reported on health care and politics in Chicago and Pittsburgh before joining The Bee in 2018.