The State Worker

California state scientists reject Jerry Brown's contract offer

California’s state scientists have overwhelmingly rejected a labor contract offered by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The California Association of Professional Scientists says that 68 percent of members who voted rejected the deal, which included a 4.5 percent raise phased in over two years. The balance of votes supported the agreement. The leaders of union did not release how many of their 3,000 members voted.

The Brown administration’s offer mirrored those accepted by other unions, including SEIU Local 1000, that bump salaries 2 percent starting today, with another 2.5 percent increase a year from now. Non-union managers also receive raises that kick in today.

The scientists have long complained that their state salaries lag by 30 percent or more the wages of local government counterparts and state colleagues who perform similar jobs. The state has never denied the pay disparity exists. Brown’s former head of state human resources, Ron Yank, said recently that of all the contracts he bargained while the state was in a fiscal funk in 2011, he most regretted that he couldn’t do more for the scientists.

“State scientists have spoken,” said Patty Velez, the union’s bargaining chairwoman. “This contract was far short of what is needed to bring an equitable and satisfactory conclusion to these negotiations.”

Department of Human Resources spokeswoman Pat McConahay said the administration doesn’t comment on contract negotiations.

Although the scientists’ contract expired a year ago, they continue to work under its terms.

The scientists’ “no” vote is the second time in a month that a state-employee union has turned down a contract offer from Brown. The union representing about 850 heavy equipment operators in June rejected an SEIU-type deal and authorized its leaders to call a strike, even though state law and the still-binding terms of their expired contract both prohibit job actions. International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39, like the scientists, want a significant pay hike to narrow a substantial gap with salaries in other public and private sectors.

A third union representing state attorneys, hearing officers and administrative law judges, hasn’t yet reached a tentative agreement with Brown. Like the scientists, and operating engineers, the attorneys’ union for years has said its members’ pay lags the industry by far more than than the 4.5 percent pay raise accepted by SEIU.