Monday, June 17, 2013

Worker: "SEIU Said They'd Fight for Us... But They Didn't Even Throw a Punch"

In California, SEIU is making more headlines as a result of another stunningly pathetic performance at the bargaining table. 

Last week, the leaders of SEIU Local 1000, which represents 95,000 state employees, signed a tentative agreement with California officials for a three-year labor contract.

Here’s some background.

Local 1000’s members haven’t had a pay increase since 2007. In fact, the local’s leaders have bargained only three raises since 2001. Meanwhile, SEIU has accepted contract language that forces workers to contribute more of their wages to their pensions. And in the recent difficult years of the recession, workers got hit with furloughs that cut workers’ take-home pay by between 5%-14%.

This year, however, the state's coffers are overflowing with tax revenues. A recent article in the New York Times put it this way: “California Faces a New Quandary, Too Much Money.” On Friday, California’s legislature approved an annual budget that’ll produce a surplus estimated at somewhere between $1.2 billion to $4.4 billion. 

So… this should be a perfect opportunity for SEIU to finally win some justice for its members, right? Plus, the Democratic Party controls both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office.

Did SEIU actually win something for its members?

Here’s how one SEIU member put it to the Sacramento Bee:

The SEIU agreement left state worker Ernie Medina disappointed, especially in light of [SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne] Walker's tough talk.

"She said she would fight for us," said Medina, "but I don't see where she even threw a punch."

Under SEIU’s deal, workers will get another year of wage freezes during the first year of the contract; a 2 percent increase on July 1, 2014 if – and only if -- the state “achieves certain revenue targets;” and a 2.5 percent raise in 2015.

Observers are especially stunned by SEIU’s willingness to tie its members’ future wage increase to mysterious budget “triggers” that are entirely controlled by the Boss. According to the Sacramento Bee:

It remains unclear exactly how the fiscal triggers in the new contract work.

Here’s what the state’s H.R. Department told the newspaper:

"Revenues have to be consistent with meeting the state's obligations" for the 2014 raise to take effect, said Pat McConahay, spokeswoman for [Gov. Jerry] Brown's Department of Human Resources. "And that's determined by the Department of Finance."

Sounds like workers will be getting a wage freeze in 2014. 

So what’s SEIU saying about the so-called “triggers” that it negotiated?

The union's announcement, meanwhile, didn't explain what factors would trigger the earlier raise. The local didn't respond to The Bee's texts and messages requesting comment.

Meanwhile, the head of another union of state employees says that in the past, state negotiators proposed this sort of arrangement to the unions, but none of the unions actually ever accepted the idea of tying their wage increases to “triggers:”

Bruce Blanning, the longtime executive director of the state engineers' union, said he has seen state labor proposals contingent on certain economic factors in the past, but that they weren't put into contracts.

"They were too difficult to measure," Blanning said.

Way to go, SEIU!