The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 22, 2008
Is UC workers' contract battle a picture of what's to come?

First the news, then the analysis:

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299 says that its bargaining team has reached a tentative deal with the University of California covering 11,500 patient care workers.

Union members in November will vote next month on ratifying the agreement, a 5 year deal that includes a 20 percent increase over five years and guaranteed base wage of $14.50 by the end of the contract, improved overtime provisions and pension and health insurance bargaining rights. You can read the union's description of the agreement by clicking here.

AFSCME is still bargaining for a new labor agreement for about 8,500 university system service workers that it represents.

Union and the UC negotiators started contract talks more than a year ago. Last summer, union members briefly picketed several UC facilities, including UC Davis Medical Center. Wages were the big sticking point.

We wonder if the AFSCME story -- long, tough negotiations largely over pay, perhaps even picket lines if bargaining drags on for a while -- is about to play out in other contract talks.

You say that state workers can't legally strike? Tell it to AFSCME. The union's five-day strike in July defied a restraining order by a judge who found that the labor action would endanger public safety.

California government is strapped for cash, but many state workers clearly are sick of contracts that for years have featured pay increases that they say have lagged inflation. How likely is it that the rank-and-file will accept contracts with little or no wage increases? Or will the tough economy and the state's tight budget make workers more willing to sign off on contracts with little or no pay increase?

AFSCME 3299 members held out for more than a year without a contract largely because of money, and it still hasn't finished a deal for nearly half its members. CCPOA doesn't have a labor agreement and no one is talking about restarting those talks.

We're nearly a month past the budget signing, nearly four months into the fiscal year and the union representing about 1 in 3 state workers, SEIU, won't restart talks until after next month's elections -- albeit it by mutual consent with the state.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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