Administrative staff members who work for SEIU Local 1000 have ratified a contract with a small raise for senior employees, ending nearly four years of contentious talks.
The deal left intact, however, cuts to retiree health benefits that Local 1000 had imposed last year on its employees, who are represented by United Auto Workers Local 2350. At the same time, the SEIU and other unions this year are confronting their own contract talks with Gov. Jerry Brown over changes to retiree health benefits.
Asked how many members voted for the agreement, Local 2350 President Joseph Jelincic said in an email that “a strong and clear majority of UAW members voted to ratify.” He did not provide specifics.
SEIU Local 1000 did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The agreement covers about 135 employees who perform everything from clerical work and legal services to public relations. It provides a 1.5 percent pay raise for employees at the top of their pay scales, beginning Saturday, Jelincic said.
The contract, he said, applies retroactively to Jan. 17 and expires on Sept. 30, 2017.
The agreement also prevents the SEIU from locking out workers during a labor dispute and forbids the UAW from striking. Most important, Jelincic said, the deal restores grievance arbitration through a neutral third party, a provision lost when the former contract expired in 2012. Since then, Local 1000’s chief of staff had reviewed employee complaints.
“Regaining arbitration for disputes, after not having it for three years, nine months and 17 days, is significant,” Jelincic said.
Relations between the two locals have been tense ever since Local 1000 split with an umbrella organization, the California State Employees Association.
The SEIU represents about 95,000 state employees and was the largest of the four affiliates in the CSEA. The others serve state retirees, state university support staffers and state supervisors.
But the four groups’ interests often clashed, even as they pooled money and bargained with the UAW for staff contracts.
Several years ago, Local 1000 effectively pulled out of the CSEA, but the UAW continued to represent its support staff. New contract talks commenced. UAW rank and file rejected several offers, including some like the new contract.
Negotiations reached an impasse last year. The SEIU imposed terms. It axed its employer match for 401(k) contributions and stopped its health insurance program for retirees and their dependents. Instead, Local 1000 reimbursed up to $600 per month for retirees’ medical costs until they’re eligible for Medicare. Dependents received no coverage.
The downgraded benefits prompted Jelincic to call Local 1000’s position “hypocritical,” since the union routinely resists cuts to state benefits and presents itself as a guardian of the working class.
The benefits concessions remain in the new contract, Jelincic said, but he still sees the agreement as a chance to change course with the SEIU.
“Hopefully we can have a more productive relationship with Local 1000 going forward,” he said. “Time will tell.”