SEIU Strike: Who Blinked?

What We Know So Far
The Service Employees Union International Local 1000 found themselves all dressed up this week and loaded for bear, just itching for a confrontation with the Brown Administration on Monday (12/05) when all of the sudden the Governor pulled the trigger on a preemptive legal maneuver and filed an action against SEIU on Thursday (12/01).

The Brown administration will go to court on Friday to block an unprecedented and potentially disruptive one-day strike next week by California’s largest state employee union.

The California Department of Human Resources confirmed on Thursday that it had filed a request with the Sacramento Superior Court for an injunction against SEIU Local 1000 that would prohibit the union from carrying out the strike or, alternatively, prevent certain “essential employees” from participating in the planned work stoppage.

Local 1000, which represents about 95,000 workers in nine of the state’s 21 bargaining units, announced last week that it would strike on Dec. 5 amid ongoing contract negotiations over a multiyear raise, gender pay inequities and how much members will contribute to their health care plans.

State agencies have warned their employees that the action is illegal because of a no-strike clause in the union’s contract and that they could be subject to discipline if they walk out on Monday. But Local 1000 argues that its strike would be justified because the Brown administration has committed unfair labor practices during bargaining.

CalHR’s request built on a complaint filed earlier in the day by the Public Employment Relations Board regarding approximately 5,900 employees at state prisons, veterans homes, hospitals and centers for the developmentally disabled “whose absence from or refusal to work during the strike may pose an imminent and substantial threat to the health and safety of the public.”

Link: Jerry Brown heads to court to stop state worker strike

Then yesterday, in the early afternoon, the strike was cancelled.

A one-day strike by California’s largest state employee union, set for Monday, has been called off.

In a letter to members Friday, sent shortly after a Sacramento judge postponed a hearing requested by state officials seeking an injunction, SEIU Local 1000 announced that it would not proceed with its unprecedented work stoppage.

Link: California state worker union cancels strike set for Monday


Today the union is saying that they have reached a tentative deal with the State.

After nearly eight months of negotiations, I’m proud to announce that our bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with the state early this morning on a contract we can all be proud of.

Link: Tentative Agreement Reached


The state previously offered a nearly 12 percent salary increase over four years, but SEIU officials say the 3 percent annual raises would be offset by a 3.5 percent employee contribution to retirees’ health care.

Link: California state workers cancel upcoming strike

As you might recall, SEIU was promising a 22 percent, across the board pay increase over four years to its members.

Other things to know

The paychecks issued to State employees this week (12/01) are the last ones for calendar 2016. The final cut-off for any type of pay to count for 2016 in upon us. (The State Controller is pushing to have any remaining payroll issues resolved during the first few days next week.) The W-2 calculations are about to begin. Traditionally, payroll for the year is audited for accuracy of calculations and any payroll adjustments are done. These are traditionally posted to accounting on December 18th. This makes any kind of retroactivity of a pay raise impractical very soon. Since the Union contract expired on June 30, 2016, there are five months of possible retroactivity on the table for negotiators to consider.

So Who Blinked?

Our tentative agreement achieves many of the goals we identified as priorities in four areas:  improvements in compensation, professional development, working conditions, and health and safety. At the same time, we protected the hard-earned rights we won during previous negotiations.

We will soon share with you the details of our tentative agreement.

Link: Tentative Agreement Reached


I think the Union blinked. Their message says “improvements in compensation” which translated means we didn’t deliver on 22 percent. Let’s face it, this was totally unrealistic to expect. However, due to the minimum wage hikes supported by unions like SEIU, members at the lower end of the payroll ladder got screwed by the Union. The only question is how badly? It would take more than a 22 percent pay increase for low paid workers just to get to a $5 an hour increase to keep up with the forthcoming hourly wage hike mandated by the State.

As for the State, I think they either lowered the 3.5 percent they were threatening to take from employee pay on January first or they split it over multiple years. Also, they probable agreed to 15 percent over four years instead of the 12 that they were offering.

The retroactivity is one factor that interests me. If so, will it be a special pay run—a literal Christmas bonus for State employees—or just tacked on to a future paycheck or water under the proverbial bridge?

Final Word
However this turns out, State employees are getting a better deal than people in the real world.

Remember that the pay raises discussed as part of the current negotiations with the State and SEIU are separate from the step increases in pay received by government employees. In addition, State employees also get a 5 percent pay raise every year when they pass the anniversary date of their last promotion and they also get a 5 percent pay hike every time they are promoted. (Promotions reset the anniversary date of the 5 percent wage increases.) In reality, many State employees are going to do better than the 22 percent promised by the Union, just not the way they promised it would happen.

Thanks to the taxpayers of California for their generosity during this season of Christmas.