Tag Archives: SEIU

California State government’s largest union is edging closer to a strike

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 president Yvonne Walker speaks at a rally for democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Sacramento City College on June 5, 2016. (Photo by Mack Ervin III)

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 president Yvonne Walker speaks at a rally for democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Sacramento City College on June 5, 2016. (Photo by Mack Ervin III)

From Sacramento Bee: SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker has called for a strike vote of the union’s 95,000 members beginning next week, according to a statement on the union website.

The union is trying to get a bigger raise than the 2.96 percent pay hike Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is offering. Brown’s proposal would raise SEIU salaries by 12 percent over four years, but also require its members to begin paying a contribution toward their retiree health care costs.  “We still believe the state can do better,” Walker wrote in a message to SEIU members.

SEIU represents workers in nine different bargaining units. Its contracts for nurses, administrative employees and information technology workers are among the 14 state labor agreements that expired this summer.

SEIU's best buddy...

SEIU’s best buddy…

Walker wrote to union members that SEIU has been in negotiations with the state for the past six months. In July, union leadership voted to authorize a strike vote. The next step toward a strike would be a vote by union members. A vote to strike would not necessarily lead to workers walking off the job.

Before workers strike, the union likely would have to declare an impasse in negotiations and participate in mediation with the state. That process could take months. But surveying members on their willingness to strike could strengthen SEIU’s position at the bargaining table.

Last year, the California State University sweetened a contract offer for the union that represents its faculty after professors voted to strike. As a result, professors received a 10.5 percent pay raise over three years rather than 2 percent raises the state university had been offering.

The Brown administration has been offering raises of about 3 percent a year to most unions. The state’s correctional officers accepted that agreement. Other unions representing attorneys, engineers and scientists are getting bigger raises this year.

All of the new contracts call on state workers to begin to making contributions toward retiree health care. So far, most employees with new contracts are paying about 1.3 percent of their salaries toward retiree health care, with the portion rising to greater than 3 percent over time.

Walker has led the union since 2008. Her union and several others without contracts argue that they sacrificed during the recession to help the Schwarzenegger and Brown administrations resolve budget gaps.

With a better economy, they contend, the state should reward its workforce. “Now that the state’s coffers have significantly improved, we strongly feel that state employees deserve a robust improvement from pre-recession cuts. But the situation has turned bleak and sluggish in contract negotiations,” four union leaders wrote in an Oct. 10 letter to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León. Those unions include two AFSCME bargaining units, a group that represents operating engineers and one more that represents psychiatric technicians.

SEIU conducted a series of surveys recently that showed its members are worried about the rising costs of housing and child care. The union says 39 percent of its members could not afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in their communities.

CalHR spokesman Joe DeAnda said the Brown administration looks “forward to continued negotiations with SEIU, and hopes to secure an agreement that both reflects the contributions of our hard-working state employees and maintains the integrity of the state’s current budget stability.”


Deal struck to raise California minimum wage to $15

minimum wage

From The Sacramento Bee: Gov. Jerry Brown, labor unions and state lawmakers have reached a deal to gradually raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, likely averting a fight on the November ballot, sources said late Saturday.

Democratic lawmakers were expected to discuss the agreement privately in a caucus on Monday. Brown presented the agreement to lawmakers last week, a source said.

The agreement, discussed by labor groups in a teleconference on Saturday, comes after intense advocacy by labor unions and statewide polls showing strong support for increasing the state’s mandatory minimum wage beyond its current $10 an hour.

The deal would raise the statewide minimum incrementally, reaching $15 an hour by 2022, and linking increases to inflation after that. Small businesses would be given an additional year to comply.

It also appears to include a concession to labor unions, who advocated for paid sick time for home health care workers, a source said.

The Governor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday that an agreement had been reached.

Discussions surrounding the minimum wage increase come amid increasing concern about income inequality in the country. According to a Public Policy Institute of California poll last week, 81 percent of likely California voters say the gap between the rich and poor is widening, and 58 percent of likely voters think government should do more to bridge the gap.

government solve all problems

Brown, a fourth-term Democrat, had been reticent about a minimum wage increase, concerned about the impact of rising wages in the event of an economic downturn. In January, he told reporters any wage increase “has to be done very carefully and it has to be done over time.”

The agreement he brokered includes the ability for a governor to temporarily stop future increases in the minimum wage during a recession, sources said. The agreement, if passed, would replace a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.

The initiative qualified for the ballot last week, even as its sponsor, Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West, continued to negotiate on a compromise.

SEIU's best buddy...

SEIU’s best buddy…

The Service Employees International Union’s state council, California’s largest labor union, has been gathering signatures for its own minimum wage increase, and labor advocates feared competing proposals could hurt the chances of either initiative passing.

Steve Trossman, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West, said that “if something passes and is signed by the governor, we will look at it and our executive board will decide what to do with our initiative.”

The agreement, if passed, will likely avoid an expensive campaign on the fall ballot, with supporters having raised more than $4.7 million for the effort so far.


Minimum wage initiative set for California’s fall ballot

Of course some people will vote themselves a raise without having to actually earn it.

minimum wage

Via Sacramento Bee: A ballot measure that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021 is headed for the November ballot, elections officials said Tuesday.

The Secretary of State’s Office projected that sponsors of “The Fair Wage Act of 2016” had turned in 423,236 valid voter signatures, more than enough to qualify by random sampling and avoid a complete count.

The initiative’s sponsor, Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West, could choose to abandon the measure as late as June 30, amid the possibility that lawmakers, Gov. Jerry Brown and others could agree on an alternative approach before then.

Tuesday’s proposal would raise the minimum wage, currently $10 an hour, to $11 an hour by 2017, and by $1 an hour each subsequent year until it reaches $15 per hour Jan. 1, 2021. After that, the wage would automatically rise with the cost of living.

Supporters have raised more than $4.7 million, almost all of that from SEIU, United Healthcare Workers West.

The Service Employees International Union’s state council, California’s largest labor union, is currently gathering increasingly expensive signatures for a competing minimum wage increase. Similar to the UHW proposal, it would hike the base wage to $15 an hour by 2020 as well as mandate six paid sick days a year.

The current $10-an-hour wage kicked in at the start of the year, but statewide polls have consistently shown strong support for further increasing the wage floor in California.

Yet advocates worry that dueling proposals by quarreling unions could lead to mutual destruction, with voters rejecting both measures.

Tuesday’s signature update brings to eight the number of ballot measures that have qualified for the fall ballot, including efforts to ban plastic bags and require condom use in pornography filming.


Measure loosens discipline disclosure requirements for California state workers

SEIU's best buddy...

SEIU’s best buddy…

Sacramento Bee: Some state workers fired from their jobs could apply for another state position and not disclose their termination, under the terms of a bill that is now in the California state Senate.

Several public employee unions, including sponsor SEIU Local 1000, support Assembly Bill 466. It allows fired state employees who have agreed to never again seek employment with an agency (as opposed to never seeking any state employment) to apply with other departments – and not disclose their prior discipline settlement.

The unions say the measure clarifies a law enacted last year. It changed state employment forms to require job applicants to disclose whether they have ever reached a disciplinary agreement that bans them from seeking or accepting subsequent employment with the state.

Some disciplinary agreements narrowly prohibit reapplying with the disciplining department, however, so there’s confusion over what must be disclosed, the unions say. That means disciplined employees may shy away from reaching limited settlements because of the boundless mark on their work history. And that, the unions say, will result in higher numbers of cases that don’t settle and go on to more-costly full hearings before the State Personnel Board.

There is no filed opposition to the measure, which cleared the Assembly in May. The legislative deadline to send bills to Gov. Jerry Brown is Sept. 11.


Shocker, not: No high-deductible CalPERS medical plan in California budget

SEIU's best buddy...

SEIU’s best buddy…

Sacramento Bee: A proposal to add a low-cost, high-deductible plan to the state’s menu of medical insurance options was left out of the budget that Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Wednesday, although it could resurface later.

“Staff advise that those provisions weren’t included in the final agreement” that Brown struck with the Legislature, Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said in an email.

The governor wanted lawmakers to require that CalPERS, which negotiates and administers medical coverage for state employees and retirees, add at least one health plan to the state’s menu that would give subscribers lower monthly premiums paired with a tax-advantaged health-savings account. Since the state pays a percentage of premiums, a high-deductible pay would save money for the state and, by extension, taxpayers.

But high-deductible plans exchange those lower premiums for higher co-pays for visits to doctors and significantly larger deductibles for treatments, hospitalization and drugs. Employees bear those higher out-of-pocket costs.

Unions blasted Brown’s proposal, while some state experts questioned whether such a plan – common in the private sector – would save money. And the lowest-premium insurance that CalPERS offers is also its least popular, raising the possibility that state employees would stick with their high-premium plans even if offered a high-deductible alternative.

Although the proposal wasn’t in the budget, Brown could still resurrect it. The governor has said he wants to negotiate lower-tier benefits with labor unions, and he’s in talks with four groups right now. If any reach agreement for a cheaper plan before lawmakers adjourn in September, a bill could be rushed through for Brown’s signature. And with three more state budgets to craft before he is termed out, the governor could float the idea again in subsequent proposals.

While your insurance costs go up thanks to Obamacare (and some of us can’t afford insurance yet pay for others’ plans on our federal taxes), government employees reap the benefit of their unions donating to the democrat party. Enjoy!


Are California taxpayers going to be responsible for millions of unfunded liabilities (aka government employees’ extraordinary benefits)?



Sacramento Bee: The Sacramento City Unified School District provides its longtime teachers, plant managers and office workers an increasingly rare benefit: lifetime medical coverage upon retirement.

It’s a hugely expensive commitment, and the district and its employees have relatively little money set aside to cover the cost.

District officials estimate that Sacramento City Unified needs another $634 million – nearly 1.5 times its annual budget – to fully pay for the health benefits promised to its workers and retirees, based on the latest actuarial data. That number represents the gap between projected health care costs and what its investments are expected to cover.

Trustee Jay Hansen

Trustee Jay Hansen

Trustee Jay Hansen said he wants that outsized liability to be reined in with the district’s upcoming budget hearings. Trustee Diana Rodriguez, chairwoman of the district’s newly formed budget committee, said she has been researching options for doing just that. The three-member committee, which also includes trustees Darrel Woo and recently elected Jessie Ryan, will schedule its first meeting in the coming weeks.

After previously serving as an appointee, Hansen won his first trustee election in November despite drawing fierce opposition from the Sacramento City Teachers Association, which represents more than half the district’s 4,000 workers. He said employees and the district will have to contribute more toward future health care benefits to reduce the unfunded liability.

“Everyone needs to make a financial commitment, the district and our employees, to solve this problem,” Hansen said Thursday. “There is no way around that.” Rodriguez, however, said it’s too soon to know what mix of contributions is required to stem the growth of liability. “These have been ongoing conversations,” she said.


The Sacramento City Teachers Association says it has already begun contributing more, citing a 2010 contract in which members agreed to contribute $200 annually to retiree health benefits. Union leaders questioned why Hansen has called for immediate action.

“Raising alarms about this school district may not be the best way to address the issue,” said SCTA Executive Director John Borsos. “In terms of financing it, most school districts do pay-as-you-go.”

Pay-as-you-go in Sacramento City Unified means when a retiree is ready to collect the benefit, the district pulls money from its general fund, which also covers salaries and operating costs.

In a survey last year of California’s 300 largest K-12 districts, California Common Sense found that 87 percent had no funding set aside for promised retiree health benefits. The Mountain View-based nonprofit has called on state and local governments to tackle pension costs.

In the Sacramento district, the unfunded health benefit liability amounts to nearly $13,300 per student, the group said. That puts Sacramento behind only the Los Angeles and Fresno unified school districts in the per-student cost comparison.

In each of the last two years, Sacramento City Unified spent more than $18 million from the general fund on health benefits for current retirees.

Another large local district, San Juan Unified School District, does not provide health care benefits for life. Instead, retirees continue to receive health and dental benefits until they reach 65 and become eligible for Medicare. The district’s unfunded liability is $88 million.

In contrast, when Sacramento City Unified retirees reach 65, the district picks up the cost of supplemental policy premiums for life.

SCTA representatives say the district has other priorities that take precedence over saving for future health care costs. “It’s much more important to get class sizes where they should be,” Borsos said.

Though Sacramento City Unified has the largest K-3 class sizes in the region, the district agreed in September to begin lowering them at about three dozen elementary schools that serve low-income students. Borsos said it needs to pick up the pace to attract more students and counter falling enrollment.

Five years ago, the Sacramento County grand jury estimated the district’s unfunded liability for health care at $560 million. Since then, the obligation has increased another $74 million.

Rodriguez said she and other trustees since 2008 have addressed the liability. The 2010 contract between the district and SCTA created a trust fund to set aside money for retiree health care. Today, district and SCTA member contributions have pushed that trust to $5 million.

Around the same time, teachers and the district agreed to double the amount of time required to qualify for retiree health benefits, up to 20 years from 10, Rodriguez said. Gerardo Castillo, Sacramento City Unified’s interim chief business officer, said his staff is recommending that the district contribute another $6 million on behalf of Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Teamsters members.

SEIU's best buddy...

SEIU’s best buddy…

David Gordon, chief of the Sacramento County Office of Education, said SCOE’s retiree health benefit was unfunded by close to $50 million when he took office more than a decade ago. “We went to the employees and said, ‘Look, this is not sustainable. If we want this benefit, we have to begin to pay into it like we would a pension,’” Gordon said.

As a result of those efforts, SCOE put $8.5 million in a restricted account for CalPERS to administer. SCOE’s two unions agreed that employees would contribute a portion of negotiated raises, generating another $1.5 million a year.

To help control future costs, workers hired after Nov. 1, 2006, were required to work 15 years at the agency to receive the lifetime health benefit. Previously, new hires were vested immediately. Within eight years, Gordon said, the liability went from largely unfunded to 60 percent funded.

He said he’s had less success in persuading Sacramento City Unified to take substantive action. Gordon, in regular letters about the district’s interim budgets, began offering to help address its growing unfunded liability as early as 2007. Two years ago, he devoted entire letters to the problem, asking Superintendent Jonathan Raymond in 2013 and interim Superintendent Sara Noguchi in 2014 to provide his office with a funding plan for systematically reducing the deficit. “I don’t have the ability to tell them what to spend their money on,” he said. “If they want to keep running this unfunded liability, that’s their prerogative.”

Gordon said continuing to pay retiree benefits from the district’s general fund ultimately will intrude on money available for student programs, he said.

Big health care liabilities arose in California’s school districts largely because medical benefits in the 1970s and 1980s were relatively cheap, Gordon said. That made retiree coverage a nice perquisite that districts could offer in lieu of salary hikes. “As health care costs started to rise though the late ’80s and into the ’90s, many districts realized this benefit would sink them in the long run,” Gordon said. “So they negotiated their way out of it, or they prefunded the benefit.”

Finding a fix won’t be easy. Castillo said addressing the liability just for teachers, counselors and nurses would require $47 million a year for the next 20 years.

Hansen said he knows the district can’t start by paying that amount. “It would be too big a jolt,” he said. But, he said, the district needs to “start paying as much as we can this upcoming budget. Then we need to be increasing that for the next two to three years until we’re funding at an appropriate level” for the next two decades.

“Previous school boards made a deal to have today’s board pay for yesterday’s promises,” Hansen said. “I don’t want to do that anymore.”

You thought the numbers you just read about were big? Take a look at these numbers.




Teachers union backs Sharpton’s planned anti-police rally

Two race baiters

Two race baiters

NY Post: The teachers union is pitting its members against cops — by sponsoring and promoting the Rev. Al Sharpton’s anti-police rally in Staten Island next week, The Post has learned.

The United Federation of Teachers sent an “action alert” ­e-mail that even promised free transportation to Sharpton’s Aug. 23 demonstration that is billed as a march for justice for “victims of police brutality.”

Some teachers were furious that the union would take such a prominent role in the event. “What a disgrace. What is going on with the leadership of the UFT thinking it’s OK to protest against rank-and-file cops?” asked one teacher. “Would we want cops protesting in front our schools over low test scores?”

The union is one of four sponsors of the rally, which will feature the family of Eric Garner — a 43-year-old who died last month after an NYPD chokehold during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes.

Sharpton’s National Action Network, the NAACP and local 1199 SEIU — a strong supporter of Mayor de Blasio — are also members of the coalition.

But the mayor won’t be attending the protest. He had earlier cautioned organizers against attempting to march en masse across the bridge, which has no pedestrian walkway.

“Mr. Garner’s death was a tragedy for the city,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said when asked about the union’s involvement. “Teachers want to help ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.”

March organizers said the union is not helping fund transportation across the Verrazano Bridge from Brooklyn.

One top NYPD union leader said he’s troubled by the UFT’s actions. “Mulgrew is always on the wrong side of the issues, and I’m not surprised,” said Ed Mullins, head of the police sergeants union. “The UFT has other issues. This is not their issue.”

A flier for the rally — attached to a UFT e-mail sent to its membership — proclaims the rally a ”March for Justice for Victims of Police Brutality!” It adds: “We Will Not Go Back.”

This wouldn’t be the first time the teachers union rallied against police action. Five hundred of its members joined a June 2012 march protesting the city’s unequal implementation of stop-and-frisk.