The State Worker

What California state workers earn: operating engineers

Both state bargaining units affiliated with the International Union of Operating Engineers started contract talks aiming for substantial raises for their members. One got what it wanted.

Like other unions, IUOE locals 3, 12, 39 and 501 had long argued that their members needed a serious pay increase, especially those whose jobs are vital to running the California’s vast State Water Project.

Last year, however, the union’s case gained traction. Years of below-market salaries had made the state susceptible to poaching by federal and regional water authorities who paid far more. The disparity created a shortage of water project workers, state officials said, squeezed water deliveries and hindered hydroelectric power production.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown was promoting a controversial plan for a massive water project to divert water around the Delta. The mass exodus of key water employees didn’t exactly help that cause.

Politics and contract talks aligned. Last July, the governor and the union finalized an addendum to the union's contract that raised pay by up to 37.4 percent for 741 employees at the Department of Water Resources, which operates the State Water Project. The raises became effective immediately. The first-year cost: $18.3 million.

And what about IUOE Local 39, the other bargaining unit that pushed for a raise? They still don’t have a contract. More about that in our next “what California state workers earn” post.

This is the ninth installment in a series of State Worker blog posts looking at what unionized government employees earned in 2013. The numbers feeding the series come from the state controller’s payroll data. The figures include only regular pay issued to full-time employees represented by the 21 bargaining units that negotiate contracts with the state. Employees who earned less than $1,000 last year are not included in the calculations.

Bargaining Unit 12 – Craft and maintenance workers (International Union of Operating Engineers)

Number of full-time employees in 2013: 9,500

2013 average full-time pay: $44,284

2013 median full-time pay: $46,123

Number of full-time employees in 2012: 9,604

2012 average full-time pay: $44,734

2012 median full-time pay: $46,430

Number of full-time employees in 2011: 9,686

2011 average full-time pay: $42,951

2011 median full-time pay: $44,611

Note: During the three-year span covered by the above numbers, state employees were on and off furlough – twice. A new top-step pay increase kicked in last summer for senior employees. And a large number of state workers entered retirement. Keep those events in mind as you look at the figures.

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