More than three-quarters of SEIU Local 1000 employees who voted have ratified a labor agreement worked out with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, union officials said this afternoon.
Seventy-six percent of full dues-paying members who cast ballots supported the deal , the union said in a press release issued this afternoon. It did not release raw ballot numbers.
"I've always said, 'Trust the members,'" SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said in a telephone interview moments ago.
While some unions have refused to accept contracts with the kind of concessions in the SEIU pact, Walker said the contract was the best deal to be had, especially given the state's continued financial problems. Holding out, she said, would only weaken the SEIU's bargaining position as the state continued to bleed red ink.
"This gives our members stability and security," Walker said, "especially after 20 months of furloughs."
Still, the the deal angered some state workers. It accepts 12 unpaid days off over the next 12 months on top of the nine furlough days imposed on employees from August through October of this year. The contract also increases the percentage of wages that employees contribute to their retirement and sets lower pension benefit formulas for new hires.
Six other unions have accepted contracts with similar pension changes. Six unions representing more than 60,000 workers are still without new contracts that make concessions. Those employees are being furloughed three days per month by Schwarzenegger with the Legislature's approval.
On the upside for the 95,000 employees it covers, the SEIU contract avoids furloughs for at least one year, shields employees from minimum wage in the event of a state budget impasse and eventually gives a raise employees on the top step. The agreement adds two floating "professional development days," to be used at the employee's discretion, in return for eliminating Lincoln's Birthday and Columbus Day and paid holidays.
The Legislature passed the contract last month and the governor signed it as a "trailer bill" to the 2010-11 budget bill enacted last month, so the pact takes effect immediately. It expires July 1, 2013. The agreement saves the state more than $386 million annually, according to state estimates.