About 1,700 union members who work for San Mateo County are planning a two-day strike Feb. 13 and 14 against health care cuts and what they say are unfair wages.
The workers, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union Local 829, work in numerous county departments.
They voted 97% in favor of the strike after negotiations between the union and the county reached an impasse, a union press release said.
What are workers paid?
The union represents groups such as public safety dispatchers, who can receive between $67,380 and $93,168 a year. Also represented are pharmacists, who can make up to $146,000, fraud investigators, who can earn about $77,000, and park rangers, who can earn between $69,408 and $102,012 a year.
“These workers deserve fair wage and benefit increases that are consistent with neighboring counties and keep up with the cost of living,” said Dina Fitch, a union member who works in the County’s Welfare Fraud Investigation Unit, in a union statement Thursday (Jan. 31).
County offered 9% raises
The county and the union have met 25 times over the past seven months without reaching an agreement. The county has offered a 9% “cost-of-living adjustment” over three years, as well as additional increases for certain jobs that come with pay that is substantially below the market rate and are difficult to fill.
But union officials said the county’s proposed increases fall far short of offsetting increases in health care costs, and claimed that their members have given back tens of millions of dollars in wage concessions.
“We … have agreed to every request the county has asked of us because we love our jobs and care about the services we provide to the people in our community,” said AFSCME Local 829 Vice President Felipe Donaire, a social worker in Children Protective Services for San Mateo County. “What we’re asking for is fairness.”
The union contends the county can afford higher increases than it has proposed, asserting the county’s unrestricted fund balance is relatively flush.
A ‘generous’ proposal
In a statement Friday, San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy said, “The county’s proposal is generous, fiscally responsible and in line with the agreements reached with other labor groups. It is my sincere hope that rather than strike, they can come back to the table and continue to negotiate in good faith.”
During the strike, county workers intend to maintain essential services and will implement contingency plans to minimize service disruptions, Callagy said.
— Staff and wire reports