The State Worker

California state attorneys' union 'still waiting' on labor deal

With a legislative deadline just a few weeks away, labor negotiations between the California’s state attorneys and Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration are in a holding pattern, a union spokesman said today.

“We’re still waiting,” union spokesman Patrick Whalen said, attributing the delay to a “switch at the top” of the state Human Resources Department, where Director Julie Chapman abruptly retired in February and Richard Gillihan, a Department of Finance budget manager, took her place.

Human Resources spokeswoman Pat McConahay declined to comment, citing the department’s policy to refrain from talking about ongoing contract negotiations.

California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment is one of three unions that need to reach contract terms by mid-June so that the Legislature has time to fund the deals before they leave for their summer break. Otherwise, lawmakers won’t be able to take up the unions’ agreements until August.

The other unions without labor agreements: International Union of Operating Engineers (Bargaining Unit 13) and the California Association of Professional Scientists. All three unions have said pay is a key sticking point and earlier this year, an operating engineers union negotiator told The State Worker that his group was prepared to strike. The union didn’t immediately return a call on Tuesday for comment on the status of talks.

Blowing the June deadline for getting contracts to the Legislature could be particularly grating this summer, however, because many of the unions that struck agreements with Brown last year could receive pay raises of up to 2 percent that kick in July 1. The increases are contingent on Finance Director Michael Cohen’s determination this month that revenues will cover the state’s obligations with enough left over to pay for the higher salaries. Given the state’s brightening revenue picture, it seems increasingly likely that Cohen will OK the raises.

Brown’s January budget also assumed that state employee raises would go through. The governor has proposed about $16 billion for state employee salaries in 2014-15 and about $8 billion for benefits, mostly to cover pension contributions and health insurance.