By Monty Kroopkin / June 7, 2011
Saturday, June 4, 2011,the San Diego County Board of Supervisors was issued a warning. 700 County union members and their supporters rallied and picketed at the County Admin Building.
Many of the picket signs read: “More work, for less pay? No way!” and “Cut the Fat at the Top.” They marched around the County Center on Pacific Highway . They chanted. They overflowed the fountain area on the Harbor Drive side of the building. Clerks from every County department, nurses, social workers, public health inspectors, eligibility workers, road crews, mechanics, electricians, hospital and jail cooks, crime lab techs, librarians, heavy equipment operators, and their family members. They lined the road with picket signs. LOTS of cars honked in support. Speakers from other area unions, from the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, and from the state labor federation pledged their support and said the Board of Supervisors must be defeated.
Despite $2.2 billion in cash reserves and a budget surplus and despite recent pay raises for top management, the County proposes to cut pay for thousands of County workers, by 7 to 17 percent. Top managers would not suffer the same cuts. The County has given no financial justification for the proposal. Many classifications of County workers are already paid below the statewide average for their type of work. Thousands of County clerical workers are the lowest paid in the state, and many already qualify for food stamps.
The sign-in sheet for the rally had 604 signatures on it. So, guessing the number of people who missed the sign-in sheet, there were around 700 there. This is a respectable turnout for ANY labor rally in San Diego . But it is only a warm-up for what the union may have in store for the Board of Supervisors in the weeks and months ahead. The union’s headquarters in Washington , D.C. , has begun assigning extra staff and organizers to aid Local 221 in San Diego .
The current labor contracts between SEIU Local 221 and the County expire on June 16. The County has been saying there is nothing to negotiate and pushing for a declaration of impasse. Union activists believe the County seeks to unilaterally impose the pay cuts, and hopes to break the union.
SEIU Local 221 filed unfair labor practice charges against the County on May 31, 2011. The union charges that the County is illegally bargaining in bad faith and engaging in intimidation tactics. Managers at one worksite removed all union leaflets posted at workers’ cubicles. Family photos and all other materials were left alone. Union officials convinced management to put the leaflets back up. Union members at worksites around the County report many similar incidents.
Whether or not you are employed by the County of San Diego , the current collective bargaining fight that the union is having with the County will have an impact on you and your family. At a time when the unemployment in our state is still above the official depression level of 10 percent, pay cuts for thousands of County workers would send a shock wave through the local economy. It will also send the wrong signal to smaller local governments and agencies in our region. The County is the largest local public employer, and many smaller ones tend to follow the County’s lead and imitate what the County does.
SEIU is asking everyone to call the members of the Board of Supervisors and tell them what you think of their pay cuts contract offer. Ask why the County has a budget SURPLUS and still says there is need for any cuts, while top county executives and managers get no pay cuts and continue to have salaries above $100k and $200k.
A new Union-Tribune update here glosses over a 2.5 % cut in take-home pay (permanent) that the higher paid unions and higher paid bargaining units of Local 221 voted to accept, as part of a bogus 2 year contract “extension”.
See new union website at sandiegocountynotfair.com .
Monty Kroopkin is a shop steward and activist within SEIU Local 221.