A YEAR OF FIRSTS FOR OUR COUNTY
SLOCEA has existed in one form or another since 1947. SLOCEA was granted recognition in San Luis Obispo County as the exclusive representative of the County’s first bargaining units, shortly after then Governor Ronald Reagan signed legislation ushering in the first collective bargaining rights in 1969.
The earliest Memorandum of Understanding on file in SLOCEA’s archives is dated November 2, 1973. Since that date, there was never an occasion, until September 25, 2018, wherein the SLOCEA membership felt compelled to vote down a final offer proferred by the County at the negotiating table. Nor was there ever an occasion, until October 16, 2018, wherein the Board of Supervisors chose to impose terms and conditions on SLOCEA represented employees. All of these acts are unprecedented in our County’s history.
The Board of Supervisors vote on October 16, 2018, resulted in the imposition of terms and conditions on bargaining units 1, 5, and 13 (aka: “Big Unit”), and bargaining unit 2 (aka: “Trades Unit”). Since that time, we have received a groundswell of feedback from the employees represented in the four affected bargaining units. This feedback has taken the form of hundreds of phone calls, emails, and walk in discussions at SLOCEA.At the October 18, 2018, General Membership meeting, hundreds of SLOCEA members gathered to discuss the County’s imposition and the overall state of labor-relations in San Luis Obispo County.
The feedback that we continue to receive from our members make it very clear that as a group, they are unimpressed that the County imposed a .5% wage increase on them when two different and independent Factfinding reports recommended 3% COLAs. Members are even less impressed with the .5% wage increase when they consider that the rate of inflation for our region was at 3.5%, medical premiums will go up an average of 4% on January 1, 2019, and pension contributions will increase another 1.13% in July 2019.
Members are not happy that more than 1200 employees out of the 1500 plus employees in the Big Unit will not receive any increase in their cafeteria benefit. Of the 173 employees in the Trades Unit, 135 will receive no cafeteria increase. The $500 one time HSA contribution offered by the County does little to offset medical and other cost of living increases. The County claims that members who are enrolled in member only medical coverage do not need a cafeteria increase as much as employees enrolled in dependent coverage levels. However, this is a haughty and presumptive assessment that has inflamed the majority of our members. The County cannot know the circumstances of each employee’s family, nor should the County try and substitute its own judgement for that of an employee, when it comes to determining the needs of the employee’s family.
Members in large numbers are also very irritated that the County reduced the call back pay benefit for employees who have their off work time and sleeping hours interrupted for the purposes of handling County business via telephone or remote computer access.Unfortunately, people who are NOT subject to having their personal lives interrupted in this fashion had the power to impose this change on some of the most hardworking and dedicated employees in the County workforce.
Big Unit employees are not happy that their compensation is on average, below market between 9.74% and 17.90% (depending on specific comparator agencies used). Trades Unit compensation is below market between 8.13% and 18.44%. County employees are not happy that their compensation lags so severely behind the market, despite the fact that the County is in the best financial condition it has been in in many years, if not ever.In each of the last five fiscal years, the county ended the year with operating surpluses in the General Fund – over $50 million each year.
As previous mentioned, SLOCEA members have never before voted to reject a County offer during a ratification vote. The votes by Big Unit and Trades Unit employees are firsts in our County’s history, and are unfortunate indicators of the labor unrest that currently exists.
The County’s imposition of terms and conditions is also a historical first for us. The County’s action is not helpful and serves to further sour the state of labor relations in our County.Moreover, the County’s actions could easily lead to yet another historical first for our County.
At press time, our members were in the process of deciding whether or not to assert their right to engage in concerted labor actions to protest the County’s poor treatment at the negotiating table. Regardless of the outcome, there will be plenty to report in the next edition of the County Blade.